According to a study completed by AARP, nearly 90% of adults over the age of 65 want to remain in their homes for as long as possible. As we age, our risks of falls and subsequent injuries go up, which can make staying in the home a more challenging prospect. Falls are the leading cause of both non-fatal and fatal injuries in adults over 65 years old. In this article, we are going to explore some ideas for keeping your loved one safe while he/she remains in her home as long as possible. Here are six home safety tips for your loved one:
6 Tips for Home Safety While Aging in Place
If your loved one is like most, they plan to age in place as long as is possible and practicable. Here are some safety tips to reduce the risks associated with aging in place to give both you and your loved one some peace of mind:
1. Remove Hazards
Walk through the home a few times and make a note of tripping hazards. Things like electrical cords, rugs, cluttered walkways, low tables, child or dog toys, shoes, etc. are all potential tripping hazards that could initiate a fall.
To improve safety, tape down cords, create strategic places to organize any items that are loose (such as a shoe rack), remove rugs, and clear walkways. If for whatever reason a rug cannot be removed, at least tape it down so the edges don’t curl or get caught easily.
2. Smooth Out Elevation Shifts
If there are rooms in the house with differing elevations, consult with a contractor about what it would look like to either flatten them out structurally or to add a railing. On a similar note, fill any indoor or outdoor cracks or imperfections in flooring (like lifted or uneven bricks or tiles) that could lead to tripping.
Thresholds between rooms and height differences between tiles both create a significant tripping hazard. If you cannot structurally change these thresholds, add strip lighting and reflectors to the top and base of the step instead. This will attract attention to the elevation shift and reduce the odds of a fall.
3. Place Additional Seating Throughout the House
As you spend time with your loved one in their home, make a note of places that could use additional seating.
Benches or seats with sturdy arms placed in dressing areas, bathrooms, near the front door (where shoes are put on or taken off), or in the kitchen, for example, can help your loved one maintain independence with day-to-day tasks. Tasks like cooking or putting on makeup can be made easier with a bit of strategic seating.
4. Improve Lighting
One of the major causes of falls, besides hazards, is dim or inadequate lighting. As we age, our vision naturally gets worse. It can be hard for your loved one to see where they’re walking, gauge depth perception, etc. if their vision has worsened. This is especially true at night.
Replace dim light bulbs with brighter ones, add night lights throughout the house, and add additional lights in rooms that are dark. You can also add strip lights to each stair or elevation shift, under kitchen and bathroom cabinets, in closets, etc. – anywhere that you add visibility reduces the risk of injury.
As time goes on, you may notice additional places that could use a little extra light, so continue to be on the lookout for ways to improve safety.
5. Make it Easy to Call for Help
In the event of an emergency, make it easy for your loved one to get a hold of someone who can help. This should include family and friends, neighbors, and emergency services.
To do this, you can place phones strategically throughout the house or get some wearable technology that will allow your loved one to page for help when they need it. Medical alert devices can be connected to either landlines or cellular towers and make it simple to get help quickly.
6. Add Protection
Finally, and protection where you can.
- Place non-skid mats into showers, tubs, kitchens, near sinks, or anywhere that has the potential of getting slippery.
- Add railing near toilets, showers, the bed, etc.
- Ensure your loved one has multiple canes, walkers, etc. if needed and that all walkers have easy-to-use brakes.
- Move any items from higher floors to lower floors to reduce the number of trips made up or down the stairs.
- Create an emergency exit plan and practice it so that they know what to do in the event of a flood, fire, earthquake, etc.
- Evaluate the outdoors for safety. You can add a wheelchair ramp, railing, etc. to make the outdoors a bit more accessible.
Closing Thoughts: Home Safety for Your Loved One
It can be a nerve-wracking thought to allow your loved one to age in place. Especially if you’re not able to be there around the clock to ensure their safety. These tips are some, but not all, of the ways to improve safety for your loved one while remaining independent at home. Every senior is different, so it’s important to consult with your loved one’s professional care team when creating a home safety plan.
Additional considerations may need to be made for those who struggle with memory, those who have had a previous fall, or those on medication that may cause unexpected changes in blood pressure and stability, to name a few examples. While the risks of aging in place are real, the fulfillment it offers is worth the risk for many seniors
The California Caregiver Resource Centers are a network of eleven independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit organizations across California that were created to be a free resource for caregivers in the state of California. We would love to connect the family caregiver in your life with their local Center, where they can talk more about local programs for caregivers, answer questions, and explain how they can best support the caregiver in your life.
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