As our beloved ones age, ensuring their safety within the comfort of their homes becomes a top priority. Aging brings new challenges and vulnerabilities, making it necessary to create a safe living environment to mitigate accidents and promote their quality of life.
You can do multiple things to ensure home safety for older adults, from implementing assistive devices to preventing falls and addressing potential hazards. All these can offer them peace of mind while sustaining their cherished sense of independence and dignity.
In this guide, we explore the key considerations for ensuring the elderly age gracefully at home. Read along!
How Do You Keep the Elderly Safe Inside the House?
Many would rather stay in their homes as they age than move to an assisted living facility. However, as people get older and mobility and response time slow down, safety hazards within the house can become more serious. So taking the following home safety measures can go a long way toward making a home a safe living environment for older people.
Before starting, you should note that safety hazards come in various forms. Fires falls, or tasks requiring swift movements can be challenging for elderly home living. While everyone has unique challenges and concerns, some precautions are general, like ensuring that surfaces are slip-resistant.
First, conduct a home safety inspection. Walk around the house and examine the areas where you stop and put your hand on the wall. Also, inspect places where water can drip and cause a slippery spot. Check where the phone and address book containing important contacts are kept. Identify areas with minimal space to turn around or easily lift heavy things from a shelf. After performing this home safety assessment, you’ll notice what needs to be addressed.
Here’s how to keep older adults safe inside the house:
Eliminate the Risk of Falls Inside the House
Falls may happen to anyone, not just older adults. However, older individuals are more vulnerable to fractures and injuries when they fall. Therefore, the first step to ensuring the house is safe for elderly living is eliminating fall hazards.
- First, clear pathways. Throw rugs may add a little cushion when someone falls, but they’re an imminent hazard. Use adhesive strips to secure them to the floor to minimize falling risks without compromising style. If this doesn’t work, use non-slip mats.
- Remove clutter from walkways to ensure seamless movement throughout the house.
- Install grab bars near toilets, showers, and tubs to offer support when sitting, standing, and going in and out. Also, put handrails along staircases and hallways to provide balance and stability.
Accidents are more likely in the bathroom, but you can mitigate them by implementing these measures:
- First, check the water temperature, which should be at most 120 degrees. If it surpasses 120 degrees, the water might burn or scald.
- Make sure bathtubs and bathroom floors have slip-resistant or textured surfaces to prevent floors from becoming slick when wet. You can achieve this by installing no-slip strips to the floor and placing grab bars on the shower walls to offer a safe handhold when moving out of the shower.
If the aged individual has difficulty sustaining balance in the tub, install a shower seat so showers can be a relaxing opportunity rather than a falling spot. Equally important is investing in non-skid rubber backing bath mats to prevent sliding across the floor.
- If necessary, replace the toilet with a taller one to minimize the leg strength needed to sit and stand.
Kitchens pose various risks, but you can ensure safe surroundings by following these precautions:
- Use slip-resistant rubber mats in front of the stove and sink (ensure they are flat and non-trip hazards).
- Install fireproof curtains on kitchen windows to deter the quick spread of fire during an outbreak.
- Replace cabinets that run to the ceiling with chest-level models to create enough storage space that does not need a step stool, chair, or ladder to access. It would help to install pullout shelves in existing lower cabinets to eliminate the need for bending and reaching deep recesses.
- Keep countertops organized to offer enough space for meal preparation. Also, check that all appliances are functional and educate older adults on their usage.
- Choose cookers and ovens with an automatic switch-off function.
Make the stairs easier to use
A decluttered staircase with well-tacked down carpeting and a robust railing (on both sides) will ensure the elderly access upstairs and downstairs conveniently. Excellent lighting is also important here: dim light can make depth perception challenging. Lastly, add contrasting strips to the steps’ edges to enhance visibility.
Check the Bedroom for Hazards
Bedrooms tend to accumulate furniture and clutter, which makes it hard for older adults to navigate at night. Installing low lighting will make the room safer, as is clearing unnecessary items and adding accessible storage.
Remove Fire Hazards
During a fire, an aged individual cannot respond as quickly as is necessary to vacate the home. Therefore, it would help to minimize the possibility of a fire starting in the first place. The first line of defense is installing a network of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the kitchen, bedrooms, and near fire sources.
Ensure you replace the smoke detectors’ batteries twice a year. Test them periodically and respond immediately when they sound. It also pays to add a fire extinguisher on each house floor to contain a fire before it worsens.
Other fire home safety tips are centered on prevention. Examine all appliances for damaged cords and operational emergency shut-offs. Hire an electrician to assess the electrical outlets’ condition and fix any issues. Then, check that extension cords are not strung together and outlets are not overloaded to deter overheating and electrical shocks.
The last component of fire safety is the aged individual’s habits and practices. Instruct the elderly not to wear loose clothing when cooking as it can catch fire. They should also avoid leaving candles unattended or smoking in bed. Keep space heaters 3 feet away from soft furnishings to mitigate accidental fires.
Keep a List of Emergency Numbers Accessible
Information may fly out of your head during an emergency. Most people keep their critical phone numbers in their phones, making it unlikely to remember them in a crisis. Rushing to find a misplaced mobile phone or address book for an injured or endangered older adult will only worsen the situation. As such, hanging a list of emergency numbers in a visible spot will ensure the elderly get immediate help.
911 is easy to recall, but the list should include reliable friends, neighbors, and family members. It should also feature the poison control number in case of accidental ingestion or medication mixup. Ensure the list is only visible from the inside. If you post the list near a window, criminals may see the contacts and use the numbers of family members and neighbors for fraud.
Check Light Sources
Excellent lighting makes a home feel warm and inviting and adds a sense of security. Well-lit hallways make it convenient for the elderly to navigate, and rooms with aligned lighting make threats easier to spot and avoid. Additionally, kitchens and bathrooms with vibrant illumination make cooking less stressful and showers safe.
If possible, use a mixture of general overhead and task lighting. You can link general lighting to a motion sensor so it turns on automatically, eliminating the need to search for a switch in the dark. It would be better to upgrade the existing light switches. For example, rocker switches can improve your fixtures’ appearance while enhancing the ease of use.
On the other hand, task lighting over the sink, workbenches, and laundry can do wonders. They can take the form of strip lights hidden under cabinets or integrated fixtures. Remember the closets: vibrant lighting in the closet, be it battery-powered or plug-in, makes finding items easy and eliminates the issue of fumbling around in the dark to get a sweater.
Exterior lighting also matters, so install floodlights equipped with motion sensors so those coming home late can easily access the door. Ensure there’s enough lighting to make it convenient to unlock the door.
After installing the lights, choose the right bulbs. Halogen bulbs pose a fire hazard as they get very hot quickly. Incandescent bulbs hardly get hot, but they need frequent replacement. LED bulbs last longer and save on energy costs.
Home Security System
Installing home security systems adds an element of safety to any home, and more so in the case of an aged person. A smart home security system facilitates control over door locks and lighting. This allows older adults to ensure everything is turned off and locked without descending the stairs before sleeping.
Doorbell cameras that link to devices enable old adults to identify the person at the door before opening it or decide not to unlock it if the visitor is unfamiliar. On the other hand, connected voice-activated assistants allow older adults to seek help if a phone is not readily available.
Adding outdoor cameras and door and window sensors to the system offers peace of mind to elderly individuals with impaired hearing. They’ll be confident that the monitored system will notify them and law enforcement if an invasion is ongoing.
Consider using assistive devices to maximize safety and mobility based on individual needs. Provide mobility aids, such as walkers, wheelchairs, and canes, to help older adults to balance and move with minimal strain. You can also provide grabbers to help them reach items not within their reach.
Ensure you organize medications in labeled containers and use pill organizers to guarantee the right dosage and timing. Equally important is to offer clear instructions on medication schedules and consult expiration dates to ensure they’ve not expired.
Implementing these measures will provide good quality of life and a safe living space for older adults.
How to You Keep the Elderly Safe In Your Home Yard?
As your loved ones age, you should make some adjustments around your home to keep them healthy and delighted. Here are some tips to help maintain a safe living environment for the elderly in your home yard:
- Clear Pathways: Keep trip hazards like rocks, roots, garden hoses, and other objects that can limit safe movement clear of walkways.
- Slip-Resistant Surfaces: Check that walking surfaces in your yard are non-slip and stable. Fix any cracks or uneven areas in paved pathways. Use non-slip coating on outdoor stairs, ramps, and other slippery surfaces, especially near water features.
- Secure Handrails and Grab Bars: If your yard has slopes, steps, or inclines, it will help to install grab bars or handrails to help older persons balance. Make sure these supplies are securely anchored and offer a firm grip.
- Clear Signage and Marking: Use clear markings to denote possible threats or changes in terrain. For instance, mark irregular surfaces with reflective tape to enhance visibility. Signage can also aid in highlighting areas where caution is necessary, like near pools.
- Adequate Lighting: Outdoor lighting is vital for safety and visibility, especially at night. So, install motion sensor lights along pathways, entrances, and other spots where older individuals often visit. This should prevent trips and falls and deter potential perpetrators.
- Garden Safety: If your yard has landscaping, ensure the garden paths are free of obstacles, like overgrown vegetation or low-hanging branches that can cause tripping. Store sharp tools safely to prevent accidents. Also, avoid toxic plants that can trigger skin irritation.
- Outdoor Resting Areas: Provide cozy seating and rest areas in your yard to enable the seniors to enjoy the outdoors effortlessly. Set up sturdy benches with armrests for support. Make sure you install these seats in shaded areas to offer relief from excessive sunlight.
- Water Safety: Install secure barriers around water features, like ponds or pools, to deter unmonitored access, especially if the aged individual has mobility or cognitive impairments. Always ensure the pool has adequate safety measures, including a pool cover or self-closing gate. It’s also wise to educate older adults about the dangers of water and safety precautions.
- Inspect and Repair: Always assess your yard for hazards, like unstable structures or loose handrails. Immediately fix or replace worn-out features. Another major step is addressing pest issues to mitigate infestations that can endanger the health of the elderly person.
- Weather Considerations: Encourage older adults to minimize their time outdoors during heat waves or offer them a well-ventilated space for rest. Also, check that walkways have proper drainage to prevent falling risks during the rainy season.
You should consult with the older adult to know their preferences and any issues they may have when staying in your yard. This should guide your approach to home safety. Customize the measures to accommodate their cognitive impairments or physical limitations, ensuring comfort and protection outdoors.
Should the Elderly Be Left at Home By Themselves?
Determining whether or not aging seniors should be left home alone is a complex and personalized consideration. It is centered on various factors, including cognitive abilities, overall health, and availability of support systems for the aged individual. Here’s what to consider:
- Physical and Cognitive Health
Examine the physical and cognitive health of the aging senior. Can they discharge daily activities, like dressing, cooking, and bathing? Do they have health complications that need frequent monitoring or assistance? Look at their ability to safely maneuver their surroundings, including using appliances and managing stairs.
- Risk of Accidents and Emergencies
Assess the possibility of an accident or an emergency when the aged person is home alone. Medical emergencies, falls, and accidents involving household items can happen to anyone, but the chances increase with age. Think of mobility limitations, chronic illnesses, or cognitive impairments that might increase susceptibility to emergencies or accidents.
- Social Isolation and Loneliness
Evaluate the impact of social isolation on the mental and emotional well-being of the old adult. If they stay alone for long, they can experience depression, isolation, and anxiety. Examine their social support network and the convenience of companionship, including friends, family members, or community programs that may offer regular social interaction.
- Safety Measures and Home Modifications
Assess the safety precautions and modifications in place to guarantee the aged individual’s well-being at home. Are there adequate safety measures, like handrails, sturdy grab bars, and slip-resistant surfaces in high-risk areas? Are there effective smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and emergency phone numbers? Proper home security measures can also deter the invasion of their personal space.
- Caregiver Support
Another essential consideration is to evaluate the convenience of caregiver support for the aging senior. Is there a family member or a qualified caregiver who can regularly monitor them, offer assistance, or deal with emergencies? Having someone accessible to assist, particularly during medical emergencies, can greatly impact the decision to leave the aging senior home alone.
- Individual Preferences and Autonomy
Lastly, assess the older adult’s preferences and obsession with independence. Some individuals would like to remain at home and maintain their autonomy for as long as possible. Others might feel better with constant companionship or would rather reside in a supervised environment, like an assisted living facility. Consider their wishes while putting their safety and well-being at the forefront.
Evaluating these factors thoroughly and including aging seniors in decision-making makes sense. Their needs and abilities might evolve, so regular re-evaluation is necessary. Discuss with social workers, healthcare professionals, or caregivers for advice based on the old adult’s specific conditions and needs.
What Is the Purpose of the Home Safety Assessment for Elderly?
A home safety assessment or inspection comprehensively evaluates your home to determine and eliminate possible threats. It is often performed by a professional healthcare provider, like an occupational therapist.
The home safety assessment might also integrate home improvement recommendations to help the elderly navigate their environment conveniently. The proposals include installing handrails and ensuring the home has vibrant illumination.
Since falls are a major source of injury among the aging, a home safety assessment will help prevent this hazard. Here’s what will be included in a home safety assessment:
- Taping down wires
- Installing overhead lights above the stairs
- Putting non-slip mats and grab bars in the shower
- Keeping emergency phone numbers visible
- Moving frequently used items in cupboards to chest-level
- Securing rugs to the floor with double-sided tape
- Clearing pathways by removing tripping hazards
- Repairing broken steps
The main areas assessed during a home safety evaluation include the floor, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and staircases. Now check these reasons for home safety assessment for the elderly:
- Identify Hazards
The primary reason for a home safety inspection is to identify possible threats that can endanger the aging person’s safety. These hazards include physical barriers, like cluttered pathways or loose rugs, and environmental factors, such as faulty electrical systems. By determining these dangers, you can take proper measures to prevent risks and establish a secure living environment.
- Deter Accidents and Injuries
A home safety assessment is intended to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring within the home. Falls, for example, are a significant concern for the elderly, and the evaluation can help identify inadequate handrails, slippery floors, and more.
Addressing these hazards through modifications decreases the chances of accidents, enhancing the well-being and independence of the aging senior.
- Improve Accessibility
A home safety assessment gravitates toward improving the accessibility of older adults living spaces. This entails evaluating the ease of movement within the home, considering factors like step heights, door widths, and the positioning of essential supplies within reach. By doing so, older adults can navigate their homes conveniently.
- Customize Solutions to Individual Needs
Aging seniors have unique needs and challenges; home safety evaluation considers these. The assessment addresses the older person’s abilities, health conditions, and mobility restrictions. This facilitates a customized approach, ensuring the solutions initiated are relevant, effective, and particularly tailored to the old adults’ changing needs. The solutions may include using lever-style door handles that are convenient to grab or integrating non-slip flooring surfaces into high-moisture areas.
- Encourage Aging in Place
A home safety evaluation promotes aging in place, defined as the ability of aging individuals to live independently and freely in their homes for prolonged periods. The assessment reinforces the older person’s desire to stay in a familiar environment encircled by treasured possessions by addressing safety issues and making necessary adjustments.
- Educate the Elderly
Teaching the aged individuals and their caregivers about possible risks and preventive measures is another essential component of a home safety assessment. This education touches on fall prevention techniques, safe handling of appliances, emergency procedures, fire safety, and identifying signs of elder abuse. With this information, the elderly can respond promptly to different situations.
- Enhance Adherence to Medication
The home evaluation addresses the aged individual’s medication and health management needs. It involves devising strategies to ensure medication compliance, like implementing reminder systems. Also, recommendations can be made for proper storage and accessibility of medical equipment, ensuring they’re easily retrievable.
Overall, a home safety evaluation for aging seniors provides a comprehensive assessment of the living space, including age-friendly modifications, assistive devices, and so on.
What Happens When Aged Seniors Become Immobile?
Mobility facilitates health and the body’s ability to heal and restore itself. However, limited movement can negatively affect an aging body. Sustaining a healthy mind and body becomes increasingly difficult when the limbs don’t move, and the pulse rate is reduced. The cycle persists as the less they maneuver, the harder it is to do so.
Without proper movement, several body parts are affected in different ways. Arthritis, podiatric conditions, and skeletal fractures are all on the rise. Stroke, cerebellar dysfunction, and other neurological disorders can also manifest. Also, obstructive lung disease and heart failure might develop because of the heart’s insufficient exercise.
- Can the Elderly Regain Mobility
Seeking senior care services, like physical therapy, is the best approach for helping old adults regain part or all of their walking ability. Usually, these services can come to their home, allowing them to get their body parts moving again.
It must be noted that an immobile body can affect the psyche. Psychological, cognitive, and sensory impairments, such as depression, fear, and anxiety, can arise from confinement to a wheelchair. It would be better to encourage aging seniors to engage in social activities with others, even if it means holding meetings at home.
Lastly, establishing a routine, including even a small amount of movement, will help prevent the body from deteriorating. This can be as simple as walking around the home to improve circulation and heart function. Stretching and moving muscles can also suffice if they start small and gradually increase the intensity.
They’re things that may not have carried weight in the past when your beloved senior was young, but if they are now unsteady on their feet, you should address any risks. So…
How Do You Ensure Home Safety for the Elderly?
You can ensure home safety for older adults by installing adequate lighting to improve visibility, addressing fall hazards, promoting fire and emergency safety, etc. What’s more, regular supervision, communication, and caregiver support will help ensure a safe living space for the elderly.