By Julie Davis, Chief Content Officer, www.parentgiving.com
Whether living at home, living with a family member or living in a senior residence, for seniors home safety is a top priority, both to increase independence and prevent a life-threatening fall and fracture.
You might think that the entire home environment needs to be retrofitted, but unless you’re making home modifications for someone who is handicapped, many of the most effective steps are simple, inexpensive and easy to do.
Use these points as a road-map around the house.
Throughout the home:
- Remove clutter and keep floors clear of electrical cords, loose mats, area rugs and piles of newspapers. These are all tripping hazards.
- Make sure any stair railings are secure and run the length of the staircase. If stairs become too difficult to maneuver yet are unavoidable, a stair lift is an option; it’s expensive, but could avoid having to move.
- Improve lighting within rooms and between rooms. Make sure that the highest wattage bulbs are used and that there are no dark areas. The path from bed to bath should have a nightlight. Outside lighting is important, too, especially around any steps.
In the bathroom:
- Grab bars are essential to offer support when getting in and out of the tub or shower and on and off the toilet. A towel bar won’t accomplish this and, because it may be poorly anchored, can actually lead to a fall if it is inadvertently pulled out of the wall from the force of a person’s body-weight. There are all-in-one pole style, floor-to-ceiling assists that can be positioned between tub and toilet for multipurpose use.
- Non-slip bath mats should be placed inside and outside the tub. If standing is difficult, a shower bench or chair provides a way to sit under the shower-head and eliminates the need to get up and down in the tub when bending is a problem.
In the bedroom:
- A bed assist is akin to a grab bar to help get in and out of bed. Many sit on the floor with stabilizing bars that slip between mattress and box spring. Some also function as a bed rail to prevent rolling out of bed and provide support when turning in bed.
In the kitchen:
- Rearrange pots, pans and dishes so that the most frequently used items are within easy reach, usually at waist height for the least bending down or reaching up. Grabbers are handheld tools that can be used to grab items on a high shelf and might be useful.
In the living room:
- If getting on and off the sofa is difficult, try an uplift seat or a chair that offers this function—a mechanical booster that lifts up your body-weight. If incontinence is an issue, try fabric covered absorbent pads to discretely safeguard furniture. Switch out a conventional telephone with a large button, large LED screen version that has a flashing light to signal a call and compensate for hearing issues.
Small changes like these can have a huge impact on wellbeing and peace of mind. Most don’t take much time or effort, but the results are huge.
Julie Davis is the chief content officer for www.parentgiving.com, a comprehensive website dedicated to the health and wellness needs of seniors and their caregivers, both near and far. Parentgiving offers hundreds of informative articles and thousands of products that allow people to age well at home, practical tools for all the activities of daily living for those who want to stay independent as well as those with limited mobility. Julie’s mission is to provide the widest possible range of articles on all issues affecting better aging, from advances in medical research to preserving quality of life and enabling aging in place. She has been a health and fitness editor for over 25 years, has written over 50 books and developed more than two dozen magazines and websites.