Elder Care

The activities of daily living and everything else you need to know to get through the 36-hour day.

How to keep seniors safe at home

How to keep seniors safe at home

by STEPHANIE ERICKSON
Contributor

It is very scary to know that our parents are living alone in their home as they begin to lose physical and cognitive functioning.

We want to respect their decision to remain autonomous at home for as long as possible so we search for ways to make this happen. The following is a complete list of all of the areas in your home that present a danger to your parent or loved one, outlines the factors that increase risk and offers concrete suggestions to reduce the identified risks.

Emergency Preparation:

Get the name of neighbor/friend/relative and phone number to contact in the case of an emergency and you are not able to get to your loved one’s home.

Post your name and phone number next to every phone AND give this information to AT LEAST one neighbor/friend.
Obtain the name of a community member, social worker, other professional to contact in the case of an emergency and/or regular updates.

Give an extra key to a neighbor or friend, have an extra key for yourself, and hide one outside the home (if you feel comfortable) so someone can gain access to the home in an emergency.

Register with Medic-Alert or LifeLine and get a bracelet for your parent so he/she can access help if there is a fall.

Make sure all legal documents (power of attorney, mandates in the case of incapacity, etc. are updated and complete).

Risk Factors for a Fall:

Over 75 years old
Living alone
Housebound
Use of cane/walker
Previous falls
Acute illness, chronic conditions, tremors (neurological disorders)
Multiple medications
Cognitive impairment
Vision and hearing problems
Difficulty sitting/standing from a chair/bed
Foot problems
Alcohol/drug use
Poor nutrition
Balance/equilibrium problems

Bathroom Safety:

Install grab bars in the bathtub or shower and by the toilet
Use rubber mats in the bathtub or shower
Use a shower chair or bench
Take up floor mats when the bathtub or shower is not in use
Install a raised toilet seat
Remove tub and install a shower with a minimal step-up
Place a chair in shower stall
Use a telephone shower head

Kitchen Safety:

Use automatic tea pot
Remove rugs without a non-stick service
Place frequently used pots and pans at waist level to minimize bending and stretching
Use a microwave to reduce use of oven/stove
Disconnect stove/oven fuses if there are memory impairments and it has been left turned on in the past

Outdoor Safety:

Repair cracked sidewalks
Install handrails on stairs and steps or install a ramp
Trim shrubbery along the pathway to the home
Install adequate lighting by doorways and along walkways leading to doors

Living Space Safety:

Remove throw rugs, or tape down to secure
Secure carpet edges
Avoid visually distracting patterns on flooring/carpets
Mark transitions from carpet to flooring with a different color paint/stripe
Remove low furniture and chairs that are too low to get up/down
Remove objects on the floor
Reduce clutter
Remove cords and wires on the floor
Avoid floor wax or use nonskid wax
Ensure the telephone can be reach while laying on the floor

Stair Safety:

Install hand rails on both sides of staircases at elbow height
Make sure an adult can wrap their hand completely around the handrail
Attach them securely to walls or posts
Secure carpet on treads of stairs
Install light switches at the top/bottom of stairways
Do not reduce lighting in stairways; in fact, increase the lighting
Do not place rugs at the top/bottom of stairs
Leave one hand free to hold the handrail when carrying objects
Check lighting for adequate illumination at night, especially in the pathway to the bathroom and on stairs

General safety:

Wear shoes or slippers that fit properly and have a non-slip sole
Remove reading glasses when walking up/down stairs
Install a telephone on every level of the home, especially in the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom
Install a bathroom on each floor
Understand side-effects of medications, such as dizziness
Avoid alcohol
Avoid carrying large or heavy objects, such as laundry baskets
Get up slowly from a sitting or laying position; sit on the side of the bed before rising
Wear clothing with an elastic waistband for easy removal



About the author

Stephanie Erickson

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