That old adage expresses the feeling of a great many people. For those of advanced age, the home can also become a risk for injury if certain precautions aren’t taken. There is no way to insure 100% safety, but here are some ideas.
Falling is one of the biggest risks, because breaking a hip or other significant bone may not heal in someone with brittle bones and can result in an inability to walk. That unfortunately can lead to a
need for nursing home care. My mother-in-law was 92 and lived in her home with her bedroom up a steep flight of stairs. Her walking was a bit unsteady so we had a Stairglide put in. She refused to use it. On the night before my daughter’s wedding, she fell down the stairs. She never made it to the wedding and never made it home again. The point is stairs can be a big risk, and the less they are used, the better. Move that washing machine and dryer to the floor you live on. They can often be hidden in a closet. Have all the necessary rooms on the same floor, if possible. Some old homes with spiral staircases may not be conductive to renovations.
Making The Home A Safer Place For Seniors
Here are some ways to make the home safer. If possible, change the main entryway so that going from inside to outside is one level surface. If there are steps inside or out, put hand rails on each
side. Don’t have floor mats or throw rugs. A toe can catch and cause a fall. If doorways can be made 36 inches wide instead of the standard 30 inches, it allows easier passage for someone with limited mobility, or someone carrying packages. Using lever handles with end returns in doors instead of door knobs make doors easier and safer to use. Cloths then don’t catch on door handles.
The bathroom is the high risk place. Have grab bars by the toilet, and outside and inside the shower. Get a higher toilet as older homes often have low ones. Although expensive, replace a tub with
a walk in shower that eliminates the need to step over the side of the tub. A second choice is to have a transfer seat with 6 legs, two outside the tub and 4 inside so that legs can be swung over the side while sitting down.
Kitchen modifications can also help. The microwave should be at counter height. Having an electric cooktop with controls in front means mom doesn’t have to reach over a hot top to turn on or
off. The new high tech devices can also help. Voice controlled devices can turn on and off the TV, lights and a thermostat. Although folks won’t want their kids to spy on them, sensors can let your children know if something is amiss or if you have had an accident. Of course, a fall monitor worn on the wrist or around the neck is critical for someone with a high fall risk. Some modern ones don’t even require you to push a button, because they can sense a fall and dial for help automatically. Everyone wants to be self-sufficient, but that doesn’t mean giving up common sense. A person who is susceptible to falling may need a gentle nudge from the family to wear the fall monitor, but it could make a big difference in healing if help is received soon after a fall, instead of a day later as happened to a person who then had to get permanent in home help.
Taking medications on time and in the right amount is a problem for someone with dementia. Dispensing machines now can put the pills into the tray at the right time, beep until the pills are taken, and if not taken, can call the kids to alert them to call or check on the parent to make sure the medication is taken.
Using safe design and living arrangements and employing technologies can let seniors stay in that home sweet home for years by reducing risks and providing needed support.