When the home isn’t properly prepared, it can be a dangerous place for seniors, as the elderly are more likely to trip and fall. Unfortunately, as people age, these injuries take longer to heal. Furthermore, falls are the leading cause of death among homebound seniors. Whether your senior loved one lives independently or is moving in with you, or you are simply planning for your own future, there are many things you can do to make your home a safer place.
Method 1 Preparing the Entryways and Stairs
1. Remove the stairwell. Create zero-stair entries to the house if possible. This will make it easier for an elderly person to enter and exit the house, lowering the risk of a fall.
This is frequently accomplished by adding a ramp to an entrance that already has stairs.
2. Make the doors wider. If possible, install 36-inch-wide doorways. This allows for more manoeuvrability, particularly when using a walker or wheelchair.
3. Set up sturdy railings. All staircases should have railings on both sides that are strong enough to support a person’s entire body weight.
These railings should ideally extend beyond the top and bottom steps.
Adding reflective striping to each stair can also help with visibility.
You may want to install a stair lift if it is necessary and possible to make it easier for seniors to ascend and descend.
Method 2 Making the Kitchen a Safer Place to Cook
1. Examine your appliances. Any appliances that aren’t working properly should be replaced or repaired. Using them increases the possibility of injury.
When replacing appliances, look for ones that turn off automatically, especially coffee makers and tea kettles. This reduces the risk of fire.
2. Place appliances in easy reach. Place all appliances at waist level to avoid seniors having to struggle to reach items that are either too high or too low.
Similarly, to make dishes, glassware, and other frequently used kitchen items more accessible, store them in low drawers rather than high cabinets.
3. Install reachable counters. Install counters at two different heights if possible, so that someone can comfortably prepare food while standing or seated on a chair or stool.
4. Knives should be stored safely. Sharp knives should be stored on a rack or in a block where the handles are easily accessible but the blades are not visible.
Storing sharp knives in a drawer is risky because it is easy to cut oneself while reaching in to retrieve one.
5. Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Keep a fire extinguisher in an easily accessible location in case of a cooking mishap. A smoke detector should also be installed in the kitchen and on each level of the house.
Keep in mind that fire extinguishers have a limited lifespan. Check for wear and tear and replace as needed.
Consider keeping a fire extinguisher on each floor of the house, as fires can start anywhere, including the kitchen.
Method 3 Reducing Hazards in the Bathroom
1. Make the restroom accessible. Install an elevated toilet seat to make it easier for seniors to get up and down if the seat is too low. If it’s too high, call a plumber to install a new toilet.
A low toilet can be difficult on the knees of an elderly person. A high one may pose a tripping hazard.
It’s also a good idea to install a grab bar on both sides of the toilet to improve safety and accessibility.
2. Reduce the danger of showers. Not surprisingly, the shower is a popular location for a fall. Install a grab bar in the shower in the event that someone begins to slip.
It is also safer to use a shower seat than to stand in a slick tub. It’s also a good idea to put a shower mat or non-slip decals on the bottom of the tub.
Install a hand-held shower head to make showering easier, especially if you are seated.
Install a shower with a step-free entry if possible. This reduces the possibility of tripping while entering and exiting. If that isn’t possible and you have a high-sided bath tub, think about getting a transfer bench to make using the tub easier and safer.
3. Make the shower door visible. Bright tape or decals should be placed on clear glass shower doors, as it is difficult for those with poor eyesight to see if there is a door at all, let alone whether it is open or closed.
4. Avoid slipping on slick floors. Install no-slip mats around the shower and sink, or install a floor that reduces the likelihood of slipping.
To prevent slipping, wood, vinyl, or tile floors with a lot of grout are ideal.
5. Avoid scalding. To prevent accidental scalding, label or paint the hot water faucet red.
You may also want to consider lowering the water temperature by a few degrees to reduce the likelihood of scalding. It is best to keep the temperature around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Set up a safe lock. Install a lockable door knob that can be unlocked from the outside. If an accident occurs, help will be able to reach the injured person more quickly.
Additionally, replace doorknobs with lever handles to make them easier to use.
7. Medication should be kept separate and clearly labelled. If there are multiple people in the household, try designating separate, specific areas for medications to avoid them getting mixed up. If you have several medicine cabinets, for example, assign one to each person. Additionally, ensure that medications are clearly labelled to reduce the risk of taking the wrong medication.
Method 4 Making the Home Safer Overall
1. Make certain that walking areas are secure. All rugs and loose carpets should be tacked or taped to the ground, or better yet, small area rugs should be avoided entirely. This will keep seniors from tripping on rounded corners or scrunched rugs.
Smaller rugs can be secured with double-sided tape, but consider simply removing these.
Rugs should be replaced if the edges begin to curl, as this creates a tripping hazard.
On waxed floors, such as hardwoods, non-skid wax can be used.
2. Get rid of the clutter. Ensure that all areas of the house, particularly walking areas, are free of clutter that could cause tripping or other accidents.
Electric cords and other wires should be secured to the wall so that no one trips over them.
Clean up toys, newspapers, and other items that have been left on the floor on a regular basis.
Make it easy for seniors to move around by leaving plenty of space between furniture pieces. Excess furniture, particularly items that are too large for the space, should be removed if necessary.
3. Make the furniture more stable. Check that all seating is stable, and get rid of any wobbly chairs or other unstable furniture.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that some of the seating is at a level that allows you to sit and stand easily—not too high or too low.
4. Take care of the corners. To avoid serious injury in the event of a fall, cover sharp corners on tables or countertops.
You can do this with tape and foam, as shown here, or you can buy commercially available corer covers, which are more durable and appealing.
5. Install sufficient, easily accessible lighting. Make sure that all areas of the house are well-lit. Make sure lamps are easily accessible from seating, the bed, and so on.
Install non-glare, 100-watt (or higher) light bulbs, and replace any burned-out bulbs as soon as possible.
Adequate lighting is essential everywhere, but it is especially critical on stairwells and in areas where sharp tools may be used, such as the kitchen. Install additional lighting in these areas if necessary.
Nightlights are also useful in areas that a senior may need to use at night, such as the bathroom and hallways.
6. Examine the smoke detectors. Check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are in good working order. Check to see if they have new batteries. Make sure there are at least one on each floor and one in each bedroom.
Ideally, these should be hard-wired. Even so, it’s critical to check the batteries on a regular basis in case of a power outage.
7. Consider purchasing a medical alert or buddy system. If the individual lives alone, it may be a good idea to purchase a medical alert system in case the individual falls or is injured and is unable to reach a phone. These systems provide wearable devices (such as a necklace or a watch) that can be pressed to summon assistance. There are numerous types of medical alert systems available, so select the one that best fits your needs.
If you do not want to invest in a medical alert system, consider a buddy system in which one or more people check in on the elderly person on a daily basis to ensure they are okay.
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