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Seniors and Home Safety

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Home safety for seniorsHome Safety and Physical Limitations

If you think about the way your residence or (your loved one’s) is constructed, you may realize that most areas presuppose a moderate level of physical ability. These spaces may include flights of stairs, overhead cabinets, waist-level countertops, and bathtubs. These household spaces can be difficult for aging individuals to use and a threat to their home safety, because certain age- and health-related problems can act as hindrances.

When we get older, our agility, bone density, eyesight, flexibility, hearing, and strength all begin to decrease. How well an individual has taken care of their body over time will determine to what degree these capacities decline. Activities like walking up a flight of stairs could cause a lot of pain to knees and hips; cooking or chopping vegetables may result in injury from declines in dexterity; getting in and out of a bathtub can make balancing more challenging, potentially leading to a fall. The space your loved one once navigated with ease turns into a space with obstacles that can harm them. Thankfully, there are adjustments you and your loved one can make to boost home safety, avoid injuries, and facilitate certain activities.

What to Do for Better Eldercare Home Safety

Keep in mind what your loved one can do to rearrange the house to reduce the likelihood of falling—one of the biggest concerns for aging individuals. Some suggestions (from the National Institute of Health and  AARP) are:

  • Provide enough space to walk: The more room there is in your loved one’s house, the lower the chances they have to trip on something. You can help your loved one rearrange furniture and household items so that they remain out of the way.
  • Make sure hazardous areas are not wet: Such hazardous areas include the kitchen or the bathroom floor, areas that have a higher likelihood of becoming slippery. A way around this home safety hazard is to have mats or carpets in those areas, or to buy comfortable footwear that have slip-proof soles.
  • Install handrails/seat in the bathroom: Handrails or a shower seat will provide support in potentially slippery environments. Built-in shower seats are also an alternative to changing your bathtub into a walk-in shower, which may be costly.
  • Handrails: Having handrails on any flight of stairs will provide more support for balance and alleviate strain from walking up the stairs.
  • Chair lift for stairs: If you or your loved one have a lot of difficulty going up and down stairs, then a chair lift is a great solution, although it may be costly. Certain companies may allow the option to pay in installments so you can finance your chair lift purchase more easily.
  • Rearrange household to make it more accessible: If you know that you or your loved one uses items very frequently around the house, then it is a good idea to place these items in locations that are easily accessible. This strategy will prevent an aging individual from straining to get something if it is stored in an area that is too high or too low.
  • Countertops that are accessible: If your loved one has trouble standing when they are in the kitchen (or in general), then it will be helpful to have lower countertops so they can sit. If they can stand, then buying a padded mat, perhaps, can make standing less harsh on joints.

Adjusting your home safety strategy will take some brainstorming, money, and physical help. Although it may be overwhelming to think about, finding the appropriate resources and answers will help you make informed decisions.

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The CareAcademy team has put together a class on Safety Precautions. For professional and family caregivers. Learn what to do to keep older adults safe. 

Elayne has been a professional geriatric care manager for more than 25 years. She was a founding member of the Florida Geriatric Care Managers Association, and she is currently a member of the Case Management Society of America and the American Counseling Association. Elayne is a passionate and caring Alzheimer’s advocate, and a professional trainer and educator.

Elayne ForgieSeniors and Home Safety

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