Home Safety for Seniors (with Checklist)
Your elderly loved one is capable of managing many things, but living alone is no longer one of them. It’s not time to think about moving to a nursing home or a setting with more supervised care. At present, you and your loved one believe that bringing in some help from a home care agency would work well.
With that in mind, it helps to consider different strategies that help provide more safety for elderly people who want to remain in their homes. While much can remain the same, other aspects of the house will need to change. In many cases the adjustments are minor, but some may require help from contractors and other professionals. Here are some ideas on how to manage home safety for seniors and ensure your loved one is safe as well as happy.
A Complete Home Assessment is in Order
Given the fact that this is a new phase in the lives of you and your loved one, it’s time to consider what can remain the same and what has to change. The only way to do that is to conduct a full home assessment and determine what requires some enhancements. Your goal is to make it easier for your loved one to move through the home, reduce the falls risk, and in general make sure that home care will be enough to ensure nothing is left undone at the end of the day.
The most practical way to proceed is to start at the front door and then move on to each room that your loved one uses most often. Once that’s done, you can address areas of the house that may only be used once in a while.
As you go along, make a list of things that catch your eye. It may have to do with the need to get rid of something, alter something, or possibly add something. After you’ve made a clean sweep of the home, you’ll have a better idea of what to do next.
Look at Each Room With a Fresh Perspective
While going through each of those rooms, try to look at them in a way that you never considered in the past. It may help to pretend this is the first time you’re entering the space and you’re trying to decide if it would be safe for someone whose condition is like that of your loved one. This sense of observing as an objective third party may help you see things that would be overlooked otherwise.
Is the water heater in the basement in a safe spot? Would someone using a walker or a wheelchair find the living room easily accessible? How would someone with your loved one’s mobility issues get in and out of the bed with relative ease? Could the kitchen be altered so it’s more user-friendly for someone who would prepare a snack while sitting down?
As you go through each room, don’t look at it the same way you have before. Try to see it in this new way. You may be surprised at what you notice.
See This As a Good Time to Part With Things That Serve No Purpose
There’s a good chance that some furnishings and accessories will need to go. It all boils down to safety for your loved one. If there are things that no longer serve any purpose other than being decorative, they may have to leave. That’s especially true for anything on the floor or relatively low.
Rethink the presence of things like space heaters, coffee tables, and plant stands. While they may look nice, all of them could pose an issue in one way or another. You can likely find a way to rearrange the space so they aren’t missed or something that’s safer serves the same purpose.
Rethink Moving From One Room to the Next
The ability to easily move from one room to the next is important. Whether your loved one is using a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair, the furnishings in each room should not impede easy navigation. If necessary, some interior door frames may have to be altered so there’s room for the chair to pass through with ease.
Many of your home safety tips for elderly care will focus on the need to ensure movement through the home is unimpeded. While that’s primarily for the convenience of your loved one, it’s also helpful if medical personnel respond to an emergency and need to get to your loved one quickly.
Identify Structural Changes That Must Be Made
Living as older adults does mean getting rid of trip hazards and altering the home to some degree. It may be wider door frames or it could be kitchen cabinetry that allows for more storage under the counter. Even things like the height of the toilet and lavatory may need to be addressed.
Think in terms of what some changes would do for things like keeping doors locked, limiting access to certain products as a way to manage poison control, or the addition of rails to prevent falls. You may find that the changes needed to make the home safer for your loved one are easier to manage than you expected.
Keep Your Loved One Involved in the Process
One point you must never forget is that the home belongs to your elderly loved one. Every step of the way, he or she should be included in the process of making the necessary changes. Even if there is some limited capacity, consult the loved one on things that he or she can readily understand and grasp.
That includes selecting a cell phone service and loading it with apps that can be used during emergencies. It also means making sure your loved one in a wheelchair can work to ensure the locks on the front door are secured. Getting rid of area rugs for home safety purposes also calls for a discussion. Essentially anything that has to do with changes or the implementation of safety tips should be grounds for a consultation with your loved one.
Why is this important? Your loved one is going through a serious change. It’s already evident that control is slipping away. By including your loved one in the decision making process, you’re honoring the abilities that remain and providing respect. The result is that the changes will be easier to absorb and adjusting to this new way of living will be less traumatic.
A Home Safety Checklist For Your Elderly Loved One
While you’ve thought of a number of issues related to safety, it’s possible that there’s more to consider. One way to keep yourself on track and have a better idea of what type of support your loved one needs is to prepare an elderly home safety checklist. There are plenty of ways to organize such a list, but this example will get you started.
I. Enhancing Safety in the Living Room
a. Arrange furniture so navigating through the room is easy-to-reach
b. Get rid of accessories that would interfere with the use of crutches or walkers. This includes low tables, magazine racks that might catch the walker, or even large potted plants used for decoration.
c. Update light switches so they can be touched rather than flipped. Make sure they are near every point of entry.
d. Sound activated lamps are also helpful additions.
e. Remove all area rugs or at least secure them in place with slip resistant backing and double-faced tape.
f. Electrical cords are out of the way at all times.
g. Furnishings should include armrests and preferably high backs to aid in standing.
h. A smartphone or at least a cordless phone should be in the room and easy to access.
II. Safety in the Kitchen
a. No rugs at all.
b. Spills of any type are cleaned up ASAP
c. Essentials (food, dishes and cookware) are stored lower for easy reaching
d. A step stool with a hand rail is on hand for getting to items used less often that are stored in the upper cabinetry.
e. Flooring must be non-skid
f. Invest in a toaster oven or countertop convection oven so leaning over to use a conventional oven isn’t necessary.
III. Making the Bedroom Safer
a. Do away with clutter so moving around the room is easier.
b. A phone and a flashlight must be within easy reach from the bed.
c. Night lights should provide an easy path out of the bedroom to the bathroom.
d. An elevated mattress that makes it easier to get in and out of bed is essential.
IV. Checking the Bathroom
a. Make sure grab bars are installed near the toilet and near the shower or tub.
b. All rugs are slip resistant.
c. The soap dispenser is securely mounted on the shower wall at a reasonable height.
d. If a tub is present, equip it with a plastic shower chair.
e. An armrest mounted by the side of the toilet helps with keeping balance.
f. Install a longer mirror over the sink so it’s easier to use while in a sitting position.
V. Stairs if the Home Has More Than One Level
a. The stairs must be well-lit.
b. Make sure the treads are secure.
c. A handrail must run from the top to the bottom of the stairs
VI: Carpeting Throughout the House
a. Go with a shorter pile and solid colors rather than patterns and deeper piles
b. Add brightly colored safety tape if it’s hard to see where the carpet ends and another type of flooring begins.
c. The carpeting must be taut and secure at all times. If wrinkles develop, have them removed at once.
VII. Miscellaneous Safety Measures
a. Make sure all the smoke detectors work. There should be one in every room
b. You also want fully functional carbon monoxide detectors at all times.
c. Safety gates are essential for the basement stairs and other parts of the home.
d. Safety locks on some cabinetry may be necessary.
Remember that you may need to add more items to your safety checklist. This can be done with the aid of a professional, as well as adding other line items based on what you notice around the house and your loved one’s habits. Be mindful of small details that could be overlooked. The more comprehensive the safety checklist happens to be, the less potential for your loved one to sustain an injury.
Do you have a loved one who would prefer to remain in the home but needs help to do so? We can provide the support that’s needed. Contact us today about the options for home care and how they fit in with your loved one’s well being. Call us at (720) 797-8548 or click the Schedule Free Assessment button in the upper right corner. Whether you need help for the short-term or for the foreseeable future, our team is ready and willing.