Worried about home safety? Start here
Most seniors want to stay in their homes and remain independent until the end. Of course, families worry about seniors living at home alone. A fall can be debilitating for an older adult, especially if it leads to a broken hip. With a little planning — and outside help — many seniors can safely remain at home.
Here are some room-by-room tips for making the home as safe as possible and ideal for aging in place.
Rugs: Sliding throw rugs can be dangerous. Even if they’re locked in place, a throw rug’s little corner that won’t lie flat can be a big hazard. Use carpet staples, glue or double-sided tape to stick them down. Or just get rid of them altogether.
Clutter: It’s common for older adults to accumulate things like furniture and clothing. Too much clothing can make it hard to get dressed, especially if bulky items such as sweaters are stacked high in closets, ready to fall. Donate old clothing that your loved one doesn’t wear any more. Freed-up space makes it easier to stay organized, and getting rid of old furniture clears up walking paths. Shelves can do wonders.
Emergency Contact: Cordless phones are pretty much standard for those who still have a house telephone line. However, it may make sense to simply use a cell phone in place of a landline. This way seniors can avoid an extra bill. An emergency alert system could be even easier.
Nightlights: For hallways and bathrooms, nightlights are perfect. Another option is LED rope lighting, which can be draped around handrails or along a corridor. It comes in different colors and is low wattage to save energy.
Bed height: If a senior’s knees are above their hips while sitting on the edge of a bed, it’s too low. It’s too high if their legs don’t touch the floor. Adding or subtracting a box spring can raise bed height accordingly.
Cords: Extension cords are a major fall hazard. Run them behind furniture or try a power strip to plug a number of cords into one source.
Towel Racks: If these are loose it could be a sign that your loved one is grabbing onto them for stability. Add a grab bar near the toilet, in the shower, and on the wall to enhance safety.
Rubber Mat: One of these should be in every senior’s shower or tub. Non-stick decals also work.
Seat: Add a seat to a shower if seniors have trouble standing for long periods of time.
Medication: If cabinets are too high, seniors could have problems accessing their pills. Keep medications in a daily pill organizer, and if the bathroom counter is cramped, move medicine to the kitchen, where it’s easier to remember to take it with meals anyway.
Toilet Seat: A raised toilet seat can make life easier for seniors. Choose one with removable arms.
Water Temperature: The water thermostat should be set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit so that water cannot become dangerously hot. Make sure hot and cold spouts are accurately labeled.
Chairs: These should be the right height, so that senior’s legs can touch the floor. Add cushions if the chair is too low. They should be stable and should not wobble.
Lights: Clappers are a great option for older adults who have mobility issues. Make sure that other lights are bright enough and working properly. Add more floor lights or contact an electrician to install more overhead lighting, if necessary.
Temperature: Make sure that the windows are properly insulated to keep rooms warm during the winter. During summer, heat-control window film, shades or curtains keep rooms cool.
Smoke detectors: Check on fire detector and carbon monoxide detector batteries annually to make sure they work properly.
Carpets: Stairs become increasingly slippery and steep as we age. Consider low-pile carpet runners or socks with grip on the bottom to enhance traction.
Banisters: Railings are crucial. If any stairway lacks them, it’s time to visit the home improvement store. If they’re loose, have a handyman or contractor tighten them to the wall. For low-light areas such as the garage or basement, it may help to have two, one on each side.
Basement & patio: Low steps, or those at the bottom of a dark stairwell are made more apparent with caution tape or spray paint. Extra light may be necessary too.
Cabinets: If items are in cabinets out of a senior’s reach, move them lower. For pots and pans below waist height, hang the most-used ones on nails or leave them on the range.
Lazy Susans: For cluttered cabinet areas where spices, oils and vinegars are hard to extract, Thomas Jefferson’s greatest invention is very convenient.
Unsafe Food: Explain the dangers of eating expired food to your loved one. Encourage them to smell any food that wasn’t bought recently and pay closer attention to expiration dates. Throw away old items.
Emergency: Keep emergency contact numbers on the front of the refrigerator, as well as any other important information.
Fire Extinguisher: Make sure that the senior’s kitchen has a working fire extinguisher near the stove.
Laundry Room & Garage
Detergents: Big laundry bottles can be heavy for older adults to manage, so break them up into smaller bottles.
Containers: Are there enough containers for proper trash disposal? If it’s hard for your loved one to go outside, make sure they have help taking trash to the curb. Keep trash outside the garage to minimize bug and rodent infestations.
Tools: Make sure tools and chemicals are safely put away. Seniors with dementia could become confused in how to use them and wind up injuring themselves.
Burglaries: Keep the garage door closed, and front and side doors locked. Burglars and con artists prey on older adults.
Snow Removal: Older adults should have help shoveling snow and clearing their walkways. Yard services are often the best solution.
Motion-Sensor Lights: These lights can provide reassurance to older adults when entering or exiting their home at night. They can also be a deterrent to potential intruders.
Anti-Wandering: For older adults at risk of wandering, build a fence around the yard. Big flower pots can serve as markers near entrances to remind them of where to go. Quiet, sunny outdoor spaces can be tranquil places for seniors to enjoy nature.
Doorbell: A flashing light that goes off when the doorbell rings can alert seniors hard of hearing that someone is at the door.
One of the keys to maintaining independence is learning to accept a little help. Hometeam can help your parents stay at home and lead the life they love.