How to Create a Senior Safe Home

December 16, 2014

Senior Safe HomeDid you know that 85% of seniors have done nothing to prepare their homes for their changing needs? Even if your loved one is currently healthy and independent, you know what they say—an ounce of prevention! Read these tips and take some time to audit the home for safety. A quick inspection and a few practical household adjustments could mean keeping your loved one safe and more self-sufficient for years to come.

Pick up the Rugs

Something as seemingly harmless as the frayed edge of a throw rug can trip up anyone, but especially seniors who may get their cane/walker or shoes caught up in loose fibers. Check that wall to wall carpeting is secured at all edges and transition strips are secure along exposed edges. As far as area rugs- the truth is, it’s time to roll them up and put them away. They pose a slipping and tripping risk for seniors whose agility is compromised.

Modify the Bathroom

ER doctors across the US agree, the bathroom is the most hazardous room in the house for a senior. Slips and falls remain among the most common household accidents, and not surprisingly, bathtub water on tile doesn’t help. Installing sturdy grab bars by the toilet and shower may seem like a drastic modification, but flimsy towel racks will fail if a slip does occur. Now is the time to also ensure that the bathtub/shower is not too high to comfortably step into, and consider step through tub conversions. “Grippy” bathmats are also helpful to mitigate water pooling. Shower benches, toilet seat risers and other products for seniors are a lot easier to deal with now than a hip replacement down the road.

Is the Living Room Still Livable?

It’s probably the home you know and love, but that doesn’t mean it’s optimized for senior safety. Assess the layout of the room, is there clutter in the way of high traffic areas? What about lighting? Keeping the room free from loose piles, tangled electrical cords, as well as ensuring there is adequate light will help keep your loved one safe. Check all furniture for stability and consider investing in new pieces that might make it easier for a senior to stand up and sit down easily.

Keep Kitchen Hazards to a Minimum

Depending on the level of care your loved one needs, they still may want to maintain their position as the only cook in the kitchen, and that’s wonderful, except that spills, burns, and cuts can be a lot riskier as a senior. Make sure that cooking implements like pots/pans and hand held appliances are within easy reach and not too heavy to lift. Maybe it’s time to gift your loved one with a new set of light weight cookware or a table top mixer for easy baking. Check for spoiled food in the fridge that may have gone unnoticed, and double check that all chemicals and cleaning products are stored far away from any cooking ingredients. Typeface on bottles can be hard enough to read even with good eyesight!

Sweet, Safe Dreams

Assess the quality, stability and height of the bed. It should be easy to get in and out of, even in the dim light of the middle of the night. Be certain there are no obstacles that could interfere with visits to the bathroom! Hallway and bedroom nightlights should be installed for this purpose as well. Test the smoke detector. Hearing can deteriorate with age, so it is paramount that the model smoke alarm is loud enough to wake your loved one in case of emergency.

Taking Care, Inside and Out

Stairs are often an early issue for seniors. Weight-bearing handrails on both sides are important, but don’t forget to inspect the stairs themselves for integrity. Cracks, loose boards, or worn carpet are accidents just waiting to happen. Replace questionable stairs immediately, inside and out. Consider installing a ramp for those with limited mobility or gait concerns. An issue no one wants to think about, but that needs addressing, is security. Check that all window and door locks are working properly and are operable by your loved one in case of emergency. Replace any “sticky” or intricate hardware that could prevent easy entry and exit to the home.

What do you think are the biggest risks in the home for seniors? What is the single most important home modification to make, in your opinion? Keep the conversation going in the comments and we can all learn better ways to keep our loved ones safe at home.

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