Many senior citizens are injured inside the home due in part to factors like decreased mobility, decreased visual or auditory abilities, loss of balance and other age-related factors. Furthermore, while older adults are more likely to fall because of these issues, they are also more likely to be injured due to a fall. Weaker bones associated with older age may make them more likely to fracture or break, and complications associated with healing may also be more common.Older adults may experience these and other various changes in their health and abilities at their own pace, so those who are caring for them should regularly monitor their changing abilities, their state of health and their environment to determine if safety concerns are present in the home. If you are a caregiver of a senior citizen, it is important to review the home for general safety features. Ensure that there is a functional fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Also ensure that smoke alarms are functional and are placed near or in all of the bedrooms. A carbon monoxide alarm should also be installed in the home. Batteries for all of these alarms should be checked periodically and replaced as needed.
In addition, senior citizens should have a convenient way to call for help if needed. A phone should be placed in every room. Similarly, senior citizens may benefit from using a home health alert system in their home. Emergency numbers for neighbors, family members and others should be placed near each phone. Senior citizens who are having vision issues may benefit from a telephone with larger numbers for enhanced visibility.
Many injuries and deaths of seniors that occur inside the home are related to falls, so caregivers should be extra vigilant about identifying possible hazards that may cause slipping, tripping and falling.
Loose rugs and carpeting with frayed edges should be removed from the home. Doorways that have a raised threshold should be removed. Furnishings, decorative items and general clutter that are placed in an impractical way so that mobility is difficult should be moved. Railings should be installed on stairs, in bathrooms and in other areas where mobility for the senior citizen may be more challenging.
In the Bathroom
The bathroom is generally an area of the home that should be reviewed carefully. In this room, seniors who are dependent on mobility devices like canes, walkers or other devices may need to move freely to get dressed or undressed, to climb in and out of the tub and for other related functions.
In addition, flooring in the bathroom may naturally be more slick, and it can become even more slippery when it is damp. The use of non-slip rugs is imperative in this area, and non-stick mats may be placed in the bathtub or shower.
In addition, a seating area may be installed in the bathtub or shower to further minimize the risk of falling. Handrails may be placed in the bathtub or shower, in the entryway to the bathtub or shower and near the toilet. Some senior citizens may benefit from the installation of an elevated toilet seat.
Adequate lighting should be available in the bathroom as well as in the bathtub or shower area. You may also consider installing a phone line in this room so that a senior citizen can more easily reach the phone and call for emergency assistance with greater ease if the need arises.
In the Kitchen
The kitchen is often an area of concern regarding the safety of senior citizens. In the kitchen, senior citizens may use one or both hands to hold food
products, cooking utensils, dinnerware and other items. Because of this, their hands may not be free to hold a cane or walker or to grab for support when needed.
In addition, senior citizens may need to stoop down or to reach elevated heights to grab items on shelves. The flooring in this room can also be slick, and spills or leaks can result in wet surfaces. These factors all increase the likelihood of injury.
To improve the safety of the kitchen for senior citizens, the height of shelving can be adjusted in cabinets and in the pantry. Non-stick mats can be placed on the floor. Handrails can also be installed in areas where a senior citizen may not be able to use a cane or walker, such as near the refrigerator or the stove.
Installing Adequate Lighting
It is common for quality of vision in senior citizens to decrease with age, and ensuring that adequate lighting is installed throughout the home can be beneficial. Take time to review the wattage of each of the bulbs in light fixtures throughout the home, and consider replacing low watt bulbs with higher watt bulbs to maximize lighting.
Install night lights in hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms and other areas of the home to ensure that adequate lighting is available when a senior citizen maneuvers through the house at night.
Consider using special devices, such as lamps that turn on and off with the touch of a hand, for easier function. Also, talk to the senior citizen about the importance of always turning lights on when entering a room rather than trying to walk through a darkened room.
Understanding a Senior Citizen’s Habits and Lifestyle
These steps can all be followed to create a safer living environment for senior citizens at home. However, it is important to note that each home is unique and each senior citizen may have unique habits or behaviors that may ultimately pose a danger to them. It is wise for caregivers to spend ample time observing the senior citizen in their daily routine throughout the day to determine if other steps should be taken to improve safety inside the home.
For example, if a senior citizen normally wears slippery-soled shoes or enjoys padding around the house in slipper socks, this behavior may need to be adjusted for safety. If a senior citizen has trouble performing regular activities, such as loading a dishwasher or a washing machine, assistance may need to be provided by you or a third-party to perform these activities.
Furthermore, keep in mind that a senior citizen’s physical abilities and habits both may change over time. Because of this, a caregiver should spend time observing the senior citizen periodically and making new adjustments to the home for safety as needed.