This is the first of two blog posts regarding senior safety and home care. Our first post will concentrate on preventing physical injury, such as falls. Next week's post will focus on "Seasonal Reminders".
An essential step for new parents is to make sure their house is safe. Falls in the home are the #1 cause of hospital admissions for seniors. So, it has become equally important to keep seniors safe at home when they become LESS mobile as they age and are at GREATER risk of falling.
Perhaps your loved one could use more assistance at home if advanced aging or illness is making staying safe at home more difficult. With offices in Westchester, Fairfield, and Nassau Counties as well as Manhattan, STEPS Home Care can provide the support to keep an older adult independent in their own home for as long as possible.
Here are 8 home safety tips to make seniors safer at home:
1) Avoid tripping and slipping
Remove anything that could cause tripping or slipping while walking. The obvious hazards are small furniture and throw rugs and everyday clutter - grocery bags, pet bowls, pillows, trash baskets, etc. Use non-slip rugs, non-slip rug pads underneath rugs or attach rugs to the floor with double-sided tape. Throw out small throw rugs!
- Tangle of Electrical Cords - Use extension cords to run electrical cords behind furniture and rearrange furniture so that cords can be plugged in to the nearest outlet. Consider a power strip where several cords can be plugged into one long power source.
- Walking Paths - Clear designated walking paths to and from high trafficked areas such as the bed to the bathroom and the dining table to the kitchen sink. Make sure to always keep those paths clear of clutter. You may even want to outline the perimeters of the walkway area with a bright color painter’s tape.
- Stairs - Navigating stairs in the dark can make it difficult to see the individuals steps. It is helpful to place white or bright color tape across the top edge of each stair. That will help make it easier to see where one step starts and another one stops.
- Keep Floors Dry - Small drips from washing your hands in the bathroom, washing dishes at the kitchen sink and nearly invisible puddles post-shower can lead to a falling disaster. Use only non-skid wax on waxed floors and always keep paper towels or an absorbent towel ready by a sink or door mat to mop up little drips and spills. Use non-slip items in the bathroom such as a non-slip strips or a rubber mat on the floor of your bathtub or shower. Have seniors wear shoes and/or socks with a non-skid sole.
2) WHERE'S THE FIRE? DON'T RUSH
Barbara Moran, RN Director, at STEPS Home Care says, "The #1 thing I tell any patient with transition and ambulation issues is slow down. EVERY time you get up from bed or chair, once you are standing take a couple of seconds to adjust." Seniors often fall because they get up, start walking too quickly, get light-headed and fall.
3) A Well-lit house is a safe house
Since eyesight decreases with age, it’s important to make sure a home is always well lit. Put lights on timers so they always go on before dusk, place plug-in night lights in every room and stairwells to create a visual walking pathway. Use bulbs with the highest wattage recommended for the fixture. Add a “clapper” light switch to control lamps or check out other remote control switching options. Some seniors, particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease, may become confused at night and it will take more than a night light to keep them safe.
4) Handrails and bars are unattractive, but necessary
Since seniors' mobility and balance diminishes over time, stairs become dangerous. Handrails are a must! Don’t take it for granted that they are safe just because there are handrails…teach your loved one how to use them. Remind them often to avoid carrying items up and down so they have both hands free while on stairs. Have damaged or broken steps and sidewalk stairs repaired. Its also important that grab bars are installed properly in the shower. Using the towel bar on the shower door is not a replacement for a properly installed grab bar.
5) OUCH! HOW WATER CAN BURN!
Set the home water thermostat to no more than 120° F to prevent scalding. Another idea is to make sure the hot and cold water faucets are clearly labeled by painting parts of them red or blue to help visually.
6) wear the life alert
Many people think to buy a Life Alert device. Shan Wade, owner of STEPS Home Care says, "Too many don't remember or refuse to wear them, or choose when and where to wear them. If you fall in your bathroom in the middle of the night, and your Life Alert necklace is on your bed stand. It's of no help to you. If you don't want to look old, refuse to wear it outside of your home, and fall on the sidewalk. It's of no help to you. Wear it ALL THE TIME." If you don't like the look of it, you can purchase ones that are quite stylish.
7) is it too high or too low?
- Toilet - Add a raised toilet seat for those that are too low.
- Bed - The bed is too low if their knees are above their hips when sitting on the bed. Bed risers under bed legs can raise the height. The bed is too high when their legs do not touch the floor while sitting on the edge. Remove the bed frame or use a lower profile mattress or box spring. Consider renting a hospital bed if they are unable to get out without assistance.
8) Have a home assessment done
The best way to insure you have the safest home possible is to have a Certified Aging in Place Specialist provide a comprehensive assessment. These professionals are trained to find and solve issues specific to seniors. Bryan Collins, owner of Collins Accessibility Solutions, says "Getting your home assessment is easy, and best of all, free. Even installing something as small as a grab bar can make all the difference in the word and prevent falls."
About Collins Accessibility Solutions
The Collins family established their homelier business 85 years ago in Fairfield, CT. As a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), Bryan Collins' advanced certification enables him to provide solutions for clients who wish to remain in their own home and community - safely, independently, and comfortably - regardless of age or ability level. You can reach Collins Accessibility Solutions at (203) 576-8642 x 3060.
It may be time to consider engaging in a home care agency, who can provide you with a Caregiver to insure safety and peace of mind. STEPS Home Care provides free RN assessments of which a large part is dedicated to a home safety assessment. Give STEPS Home Care a call @ (855) 548-1797 if you live in Fairfield County, CT, Manhattan, or Westchester and Nassau Counties, NY, and would like to meet with one of our RNs. You can learn more about us by reading our Client Reviews. If you would like a more comprehensive home safety assessment, you can also call us and one of our Care Coordinators will find the right partner with which to connect you.