Simple Home Safety Improvements Make Life Easier for Seniors
January 22, 2015
July 23, 2012
Aging can be an anxiety-ridden process for family members of elderly relatives, especially if the elderly person in question continues to live independently. What if they slip and fall or have another kind of medical emergency? Most seniors today, even where it is physically not possible, would prefer to stay alone and be independent rather than being a burden on their family. However, the perils of living alone, especially for one who is significantly older, are manifold, making it difficult to live alone. With falls and injuries prevalent amongst the elderly, prevention is definitely better than cure.
Fortunately, there are several ways to help make your elderly relative safer at home. Here are just a few to help with their independent living.
Improve Accessibility by Reducing Clutter
Furniture, although a very important part of every household, can create problems for the elderly, especially if it is in excess. If a senior citizen has refused to stay with the family or live in a nursing home, preferring to live independently, it is important to ensure that the house where the person stays has minimal furniture. Moreover, the placing of the furniture should be such that it offers ample space for movement. If the elderly person is wheelchair-bound, care should be taken to ensure that the furniture is placed in such a way that it allows enough room for movement of the wheelchair.
Similarly, when choosing furniture for the elderly, opting for pieces that are perfect for their height and size while also ensuring that they have handles to hold onto for balance would be a prudent idea. Additionally, making the floors clutter-free, especially by doing away with shoes, paper, books, or other itesm, is a good way to make certain that your elderly relative is less susceptible to falls.
Floor Safety Requirements
Carpets on the floor should be properly secured to ensure that there is no bunching or fraying that will trip the elderly. Placing additional grips in carpeted areas will ensure that the carpets do not slip or cause senior citizens to fall. Moreover, mats and rugs placed should either have rubber backing or pads on the lower side to ensure that the grip on the floor is better and that elderly individuals do not fall while stepping onto them.
Where there is wall to wall carpeting, making sure not to place any rugs on the carpet would be a good idea. This is because they will not fit well and may cause the elderly person to fall. The tiles in the kitchen and bathroom should ideally be of the non-slip variety to reduce chances of an accident. Making the flooring of the house seamlessly integrate from one room to another, without there being any change in the levels, is yet another way to make homes safer for seniors.
However, where there is a distinct possibility that the flooring in one room is higher or lower than the flooring in another room, setting up hand rails or steps that the elderly can use to avoid a fall would be advisable.
If the senior citizen's home has a staircase, one must see to it that the stairs are of an even height so as not to cause a fall. In cases where the elderly person needs a wheelchair for movement, installing a ramp is advisable. And regardless of whether the house has a ramp or staircase, non-slip flooring with a good grip should be used. Similarly, well-built stairs that have no loose boards or nails jutting out can help seniors avoid falls.
Building hand rails along the sides of the staircase for the elderly to hold onto is yet another safety tip. It is also important to ensure that the handrails are placed in an accessible position, depending on the height and reach of the elderly person in question. Not placing rugs or mats at the end of the staircase is also prudent as it could lead to falls and subsequent injuries.
Ideally, when designing a bathroom for the elderly, the doors should open outside as this allows the person to move freely within. Space within the bathroom should be sufficient between the countertops, bathtub, toilet, and sinks. Grab bars should be placed near the toilets and close to the tub or shower area of the bathroom to ensure that the elderly person can use them to climb out or get up. These grab bars should be horizontally placed to allow for easy use.
Similarly, there can be grab bars to help the elderly in and out of the shower, which can be vertically placed. Countertops in the bathroom should be built in such a way as to guarantee maximum accessibility. For instance, if the person is in a wheelchair, lower placement of countertops will ensure better use. Similarly, toilet seats should be built for comfort and ease, and can also have seat handles to ensure maximum grip when in use. Using non-slip flooring along with non-slip mats in the bathroom also helps to decrease the risk of falling.
When it comes to determining maximum home safety for the elderly, it is important to take into account proper lighting. Putting up windows that are large and open, which allow maximum natural light in during the day would be a good idea. Similarly, night lighting should be bright and warm, allowing the elderly to see everything clearly before moving. Having multiple switches for different lights from different entrances will help the senior citizen switch on the light before entering the room.
In addition to all these simple home safety tips, medical alert systems present a cost-effective option to help seniors in case of falls, injuries or medical emergencies. Usually, these medical alarm devices are presented in a very easy-to-wear form, such as a pendant or wristwatch, which with just the press of a button can contact a customer service representative to determine the elderly person's needs and send assistance right away.
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