Home Safety for Older Adults
Home safety is a top concern when it comes to ensuring the well-being of the older adults in your life—whether they’re still living independently or they’re moving in with you. When a person you care about is facing a serious illness, home safety takes on a new level of importance. Fortunately, there are several simple steps you and your loved ones can take to ensure that they have a safe and comfortable living environment in their later years.
Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury death in adults 65 and older, but they can often be prevented. Follow these tips to avoid falls:
- Remove all tripping hazards such as books, shoes, toys, electrical cords, etc., from the floors.
- Remove all throw rugs.
- Remove furniture from high-traffic areas, if possible, and pad any sharp edges with plastic bumpers.
- Remove casters to stabilize movable furniture items.
- Remove unstable tables and stools to avoid tipping and put fragile or breakable items away.
- Consider attaching a loose wrist loop to the handle of your loved one’s cane if they use one. This will prevent them from having to bend down to retrieve a dropped cane.
- Polish linoleum and wood flooring using only non-slip floor wax.
- Consider placing textured strips on linoleum to provide better grip.
- Clean up all spills immediately.
- Add grab bars or handrails along staircases and hallways to help prevent falls, and grab bars next to closet doors to support your loved one while dressing.
- Place colored non-slip strips along areas where floor levels change, such as stairs and doorway thresholds, to help clearly identify where your loved one will need to step up or down to prevent stumbles.
- Make sure the bed and chairs are easy to get in and out of, and that chairs have solid and supportive arms and backs.
Lighting the Way
Adequate lighting is an important safety consideration for preventing falls. Here are a few tips to help you light the way:
- Provide consistent lighting levels throughout the house using low-glare bulbs and shades. Consistent lighting levels will make it easier for older eyes to adjust.
- Install night lights, which can be helpful for guiding your loved one along stairways as well as from the bedroom to the bathroom and the kitchen.
- Place light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs to ensure good visibility.
- Use a light switch that can be reached from the bed to prevent your loved one from fumbling in the dark if they awaken in the middle of the night.
- Consider installing illuminated light switches, which are much easier to locate in the dark or a clap-on, clap-off lighting system.
- Ensure that flashlights are easily accessible in all rooms of the home, especially the bedroom.
The bathroom can be a particularly treacherous room for older adults, but it is easily adapted for safety. Consider taking these safety measures:
- Add an elevated toilet seat with hand grips on both sides and position toilet tissue within easy reach to ease the strain on an aging loved one’s back and legs, thus reducing the risk of falling.
- Equip the tub with a bath chair, grab bars, or a handrail placed at both sitting and standing levels.
- Use secure non-slip mats in the tub or shower.
- Add a wall-mounted liquid soap dispenser to keep your loved one from having to bend down to retrieve a dropped bar of soap.
- Change to hand-held shower devices. They are easier to use when mobility is limited.
- Mount the shower curtain securely into the wall. If your loved one does happen to slip in the tub, this will offer more support than a pressure-hung curtain that will pull away easily.
As we age, our sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures may wane. Here are a few ways to account for this decreased sensitivity:
- Avoid hot water burns by installing anti-scald devices, which will automatically shut off the water from the faucet if it gets too hot.
- Consider faucets with a single control for hot and cold water, which may be easier to adjust for temperature.
- Ensure your loved one has sufficient robes, blankets, and warm clothing available to maintain their body temperature without the use of dangerous space heaters.
When ensuring a safe environment, don’t forget the outdoors. Consider taking these outdoor precautions on the property:
- Make sure all walkways, paths, steps, decks, porches, and entryways have good lighting, solid traction, and handrails for support.
- Keep sand or rock salt by the door for potentially icy weather.
- Install ramps for easier access if your loved one is wheelchair-bound.
- Add exterior motion sensing floodlights to light your loved one’s way and avoid the necessity of fumbling with keys in the dark.
When it comes to safety in the home, prevention really is the best medicine. If your aging loved one is moving in with you, preparing your home beforehand will ease the transition by helping them maintain a sense of independence while affording you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve provided every safeguard for their well-being.
For home safety ideas and advice pertaining to your specific situation, contact your Delaware Hospice team.