It goes without saying that, if asked, most people prefer to age in place. That means that folks want to stay where they are and don’t want to move. Sometimes the homes we choose when we are healthy and able-bodied may not serve us well as aging takes its toll. Certain modifications can really make a difference. Two primary examples are adding handrails and/or ramps to make entries/exits accessible and remodeling a bathroom to include high-profile toilets, grab bars, roll-in showers, and wheelchair-accessible doorways and countertops. Other ideas mentioned in previous blogs include security poles and monitoring technology can also help improve safety in the home. Here’s a quick list of other things to keep in mind when trying to optimize the safety of the home environment for an older adult.
1. Use the right tool for the right job. For example, don’t use a five-gallon bucket as a step stool. If you must access something from a shelf that can’t be reached by standing on the floor, use a sturdy step-stool or wait until someone is in the home with your to either get the item for you or at least offer stand-by support.
2. Remove trip hazards such as throw rugs, electrical cords, or clutter from walkways. Throw rugs may look pretty, but they are major trip hazards. Electrical cords and extension cords strung between pieces of furniture, across doorways, or other walk paths are especially hazardous.
3. Keep rooms light and bright. Open curtains and blinds to let in natural light, have plenty of lamps or other lighting, and use nightlights to avoid injuries when moving about the home.
4. Religiously use recommended assistive devices. If a health care professional has recommended using a cane, walker, or wheelchair, use it! Most tasks can be accomplished one way or another even when an assistive device is being used. As you can see from the picture above, it is even possible to weed-eat the lawn while using a walker.
5. Use pill boxes or automated medication reminder devices to avoid medication mix-ups. A little organization can go a long way toward peace of mind that all medications are taken at the right time and the right dose. Visit www.epill.com to check out some of the devices that can help you to remember your medications.
6. Post emergency numbers near a phone or in a very conspicuous place, not only for the direct benefit of the older adult, but also for the convenience of others who may need to offer assistance in a time of crisis. Programming emergency contact numbers into a landline or cell phone is also a good idea.
7. Consider subscribing to a personal emergency response service. Usually these services charge a small monthly fee. Technology is getting more and more sophisticated all the time. Some devices can detect falls and work at substantial distances from the base unit.
8. Protect yourself against slipping in the kitchen and bathroom. Use only non-skid floor mats, and make sure the tub or shower has a textured non-skid surface.
9. Adjust household appliances to avoid shocks, burns, and fires. Use appliances such as coffee pots, irons, etc. that turn off automatically. Check to be sure electrical outlets are not overloaded. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and make sure they have working batteries. Adjust the setting on the hot water heater to avoid scalding.
10. Have your mailbox mounted at your front door. Most people don’t realize that the U.S. Postal Service will deliver mail to a mailbox at a front door for folks who cannot safely get to their road-side mailbox. A letter to the local postmaster from a physician documenting the need is required, and the individual is responsible for getting a mailbox mounted on the wall or on a porch rail.
Of course, this list is in no way exhaustive. It is a place to start when talking with an aging loved one who very much wants to remain in their own home for as long as possible. Home Instead Senior Care Services offers a variety of great resources to help you get started on their Making Home Safer for Seniors website. Check them out for an interactive home safety guide, senior safety checklists, and suggestions for affordable ways to begin improving senior safety at home.
These home safety solutions are the kinds of quality-of-life details Elder Law of East Tennessee staff discusses with our clients on a routine basis. When these relatively simple measures are not enough, we can help arrange for more hands-on in-home care or talk about what the next step for needed care might be. No two situations are the same. Every home safety plan is customized and developed after a thorough in-home assessment.
If you know of other safety tips, please share them in the comments section. If Elder Law of East Tennessee can help you determine how to keep your loved one as safe as possible, you only need to call.