Aging in place, or staying at home and receiving in-home care is becoming a more and more popular choice for aging seniors in the U.S. The potential for seniors to reside at home while remaining both comfortable and independent carries significant appeal. Given that aging can come with a reduction in mobility, brittleness of bones, and poor eyesight (to name a few), there are important considerations that need to be taken into account in terms of safety.
Certain adjustments should be made in order to lower the risk of a harmful accident occurring. Support from an in-home care professional to provide daily assistance with the essential “Activities of Daily Living”, combined with a home that is properly equipped to manage a senior’s needs can provide a safe living environment and peace of mind for the family.
Home Safety for Seniors
While there are room-specific instructions for a few important areas in the average home, there are also general rules that can be applied throughout the entirety of the home. Please visit our page on a home safety checklist for seniors for additional information. The goal of home safety for the elderly is preventing accidents and injuries from occurring. Below are some useful guidelines to follow when starting the improve the safety of a home for seniors:
Safe Walking Paths
Walking and general mobility can become more difficult for aging seniors. Small adjustments such as wearing appropriate footwear and using a walker or cane (even just to get around the house) can help to avoid tripping/slipping. Make sure all rugs are tacked or taped down, and that there are not loose pieces/threads that could become a trip hazard. Ensure that there are no wires or electronic cords lying out in the open. Consider running them up walls and off the floor entirely.
Get rid of slick walking surfaces whenever possible. Try to avoid waxing floors or using other products that create slick surfaces for long periods of time. When using these products is needed, take extra steps to communicate that the area is hazardous and direct seniors away from the area. Additionally, there are also several devices to help seniors to stay comfortable and independent at home.
Safety on Stairs
Stairs can be especially tricky with decreased mobility, and should be navigated with the utmost caution. Rails can be installed on both sides of the staircase so that seniors have extra assistance with balance and stability, and also have something to grab onto should a fall occur. Installing lamps or ceiling lights above stairwells can help to increase visibility. If the stairs are hardwood, install non-slip mats or carpeting to keep tread as high as possible. If mobility is especially low, investing in a chair lift for frequently-traversed staircases may be the best action to take.
Appropriate Alarm Placement
While guarding against home fires should be a part of every households concern, inability to move quickly if one does break out makes proper alarm placement even more important for seniors. Both a smoke alarm and extinguisher should be placed on each floor, with special attention to bedrooms and bathrooms. If possible, have you or your loved one avoid smoking when home alone and especially while in bed. There are also devices that seniors can wear which alert loved ones when a senior is in danger.
The bathroom is arguably the most dangerous room in the house for a senior due to the high potential for slipping. Help in this area can begin with basic adjustments such as leaving a light on in the middle of the night—enabling seniors to navigate to and from the area more easily. While privacy is paramount in an area like the bathroom, concessions such as having the door lock and unlock from both sides can allow for seniors to receive assistance more easily should an accident occur.
In more extreme cases, bathing or using the toilet should only be done when someone else is there to help in case of crisis. An in-home care professional has training to help seniors with bathing and toileting needs and can provide support in the form of supervision, to actively bathing the senior.
Avoiding Slips and Falls
Because slipping is most common in the shower, proper support aides are vital. Cover the floor of the tub or shower stall in a non-slip mat or laminate, and ensure that the bath mat is also firmly anchored to the floor. Install support bars on the wall for the senior to hold onto while bathing. However, if you are unsure whether you can install them correctly, have a professional perform the installation for you.
Proper Water Temperature Labels
Decreased eyesight and memory can be common in advanced age. Because of this, it may be difficult for seniors to actually see and/or remember which handle is for hot water and which is for cold. Since a mistake can lead to a painful burn, label each faucet handle clearly. As a last resort in more difficult scenarios, it may be wise to set the water heater to provide only hot water up to a safe temperature. Should this type of action be required, enlisting assistance from an in-home care professional should be taken more seriously.
Kitchens are another area where additional caution is advised. This is because of the access to sharp objects, electronic devices, and potentially slick floors/hot stove tops. Start out by making sure the kitchen floor remains free of any obstructions or clutter that can make moving around with sharp utensils more treacherous. Ensure that the room is well lit, with accessible and clearly marked switches. All operating switches or knobs on appliances should also be marked with clear writing or even bright colors to help prevent accidents. If possible, only use appliances that have an automated shutoff feature.
If necessary, redo the layout of the kitchen so that all shelving and cupboards are within easy reach. Seniors should not have to stand on a chair or stool to reach something, as this greatly increases the risk of a damaging fall. If an item is heavy, make sure it is stored at waist height so no bending and picking it up is needed. Additionally, hazardous items should be stored away from consumables, with their location clearly marked.
Contact Comfort Home Care for a Free Evaluation!
If you find that it is time to revamp you or your loved one’s home to accommodate the elderly, and would like more advice and information on the benefits of in-home care, we encourage you to give us a call or send us a message online today. Enlisting support from our experienced in-home care professionals in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. can provide the assistance you and your elderly loved one needs to manage life more easily. We offer complimentary in-home care evaluations so that you can understand your options and make a well-informed decision.