According to reports from the AARP, the vast majority of older adults prefer to age in place. And there are certainly many advantages to helping the senior in your life remain in their own home! Staying at home is typically much cheaper and more flexible than expensive institutional care. In many ways, it’s more convenient, helps maintain independence and create longevity, and is easy to get started.
However, with all that being said, it is only natural to have some concerns about your elderly loved one’s health and wellbeing as they remain at home. This is especially true when you can’t have your eyes on your relative at all times.
According to research from CareOne, seniors are involved in more than 2 million at-home accidents every year; nearly a third of all older adults suffer a fall every year, and 70% of those falls happen at home.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make sure that your parent can remain in place, while helping to ensure their health and safety – and protect your own peace of mind.
One of the most important steps you can take is to assess your aging loved one’s home environment, and take action to clear away potential safety hazards, before they have the chance to cause an accident.
With our thanks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the AARP for some of these recommendations, here’s a room-by-room guide to making sure that your elderly loved one’s home is free of common hazards, so that they can comfortably and safely age in place in the years to come:
Scan the floors in each room of your loved one’s home, and take note of any obstructions or hazards. To help make walking as easy as possible, you may wish to address some of these common sources of concern:
- Move furniture items to ensure that every room has a clear walking path
- Remove slippery or frayed rugs, or make sure to use double-sided tape or a non-stick backing to ensure that rugs and mats will not slide around
- Keep objects – towels, books, magazines, boxes, shoes – off the floor at all times
- Keep extension cords and wires coiled tightly against the wall, so that they don’t pose a tripping hazard
Staircases can be among the most treacherous spots in a home. This is particularly true for seniors with more limited mobility. To help your elderly loved one:
- Keep clutter and loose objects off of the stairs
- Repair loose, broken, or uneven steps; ensure that the carpet is firmly attached to the step, or add non-slip rubber threads on each step
- Make sure that there is ample lighting in the stairwell, with light switches at the top and bottom of the staircase
- Make sure that there are secure handrails on both sides of the staircase
- Look into making modifications, such as adding a stair climber. In some cases, seniors may need to address the layout of their home, and try to keep their activities limited to the ground floor.
Kitchen and Dining Areas
Meals are about more than food. They’re a chance to come together and connect. Helping your parent with meal prep may be an important step in helping ensure they get both the nutrition and the human support they need. If your parent prefers to stay active in the kitchen, you’ll need to address several key sources of concern:
- Move most-used items from high cabinets, and store at waist level
- Make sure there is a sturdy, safe step stool
- Ensure that the kitchen is well-lit
- Get rid of clutter, spills, and messy spots on floor as quickly as possible
- Make sure that fire extinguishers and other safety equipment are within reach
- Check smoke detectors and other alarms on a regular schedule
Bathrooms tend to land among the most overlooked areas in a home, though they pose several unique safety hazards. To help your loved one avoid the threat of slipping and falling, take care to get rid of dangerous obstacles and hazards.
- Add non-slip rubber mats on the floor of the tub and shower; and add non-slip threads on tile floors
- Add grab bars, shower seats, or other specialized supports in the bathing area, and around the toilet
- Make sure that this room is always well-lit, especially at night
- Make sure hot and cold faucets are clearly labeled
Inspect your loved one’s bedroom, and take steps to make sure that it’s well-lit, organized, and free of treacherous obstacles:
- Make sure that lamps or other lighting sources can be turned on and off from the bed
- Add a night light to help ensure that there is an illuminated walking path at night
- Add supports near the bed to help ensure that your loved one can stay balanced as they get in and out
The Importance of Asking for Help
All of the above steps are important action items you can look at and address, to help keep your elderly loved one safe at home. But it’s important to keep in mind that this list is far from comprehensive, and there may be many other steps you can and should take, depending on your elderly loved one’s unique health needs.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you and your loved one don’t have to go it alone. There are many different types of professionals and service providers that can help make things easier.
For instance, you may wish to bring on an experienced professional in your area to review your loved one’s home environment and recommend solutions to any problems that they assess. You may also wish to look into equipping your loved one with a home alert system, in order to let them quickly notify their caregivers or emergency responders if they suffer a fall or some other accident while at home alone. Finally, consider how much help it could be to have an additional set of eyes and ears helping out your loved one. That’s where non-medical home care comes in.
In this arrangement, a professionally trained companion can assist your elderly loved one on a set schedule – particularly stepping in when you need a chance to relax, recharge, or refocus your attention.
This professional caregiver can help ensure that your loved one faces their activities of daily living, such as cooking, grooming, and moving from room to room, as safely as possible. They can assist with meal prep, provide driving services, take action by wiping up spills or clearing a path for your loved one, or quickly contact authorities in the event of an accident or medical emergency.
If you have a loved one who could benefit from having the companionship and support of a professional caregiver, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Companions for Seniors today. The highly trained professionals at Companions for Seniors can provide a free in-home assessment of your loved one’s current situation. In most cases we can be up and running in just a few days, creating a personalized care plan specifically tailored to best meet the care needs of your loved one.
Have any questions? Curious about what else it might take to ensure that a senior’s living space is safe and secure? Want to talk over all of your care options? We’d be happy to set your mind at ease and point you to the course of action that will be best for your loved one – and for you.