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Making Your Home Safe for the Elderly
|If you have an elderly loved one, concerns about his or her safety are common. If your loved one living alone? Or is he or she coming to live with you? Either way, creating a safe living situation for your senior relative is important to to prevent injuries and health hazards. Read on for helpful tips to make your home safe for an elderly loved one.
General safety tips
- Have an emergency plan. Map out clear escape routes for fires, or other emergencies and keep an extinguisher in an easily accessible location. Make sure you have fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors placed in every area of the home and change their batteries regularly.
- Consider an intercom or medical alert system. If you will be living with your elderly parent or relative, installing an intercom can be useful to ensure your loved one is able to call for help. If he or she lives alone, a medical alert system will help him or her in case of a fall or other medical emergency.
- Keep important phone numbers posted clearly. Print a list of emergency numbers in large, easy-to-read type and post it in clear view near the home telephone. If your elderly loved one has poor eyesight, consider installing a phone with extra-large numbers.
Prevent injuries in the home
Decreased mobility, slower reflexes and medication side-effects increase falling risks, which can cause serious injuries in seniors. The following tips will prevent falls and other injury in the home:
- Remove safety hazards around the house. Remove loose or buckled carpeting, secure stray wires, and arrange furniture to create wide, clear pathways throughout the home. Remove raised doorway thresholds and eliminate all clutter on the floor.
- One-level lodgings are optimal with impaired mobility. If your loved one has trouble moving around, he or she should reside in a one-level home. If this isn't possible, restrict his or her access to one floor. If he or she is moving into your home, a bedroom and bathroom should be available downstairs to minimize the chance of accidents
- Make the stairs safer. If stairs will be unavoidable, place reflective strips on the edge of the staircase to prevent falls. You can also install light switches the top and bottom of the staircase. Cover the stairs in non-slip material for added traction.
- Use non-slip floor wax. Use non-slip floor wax and insist your loved one refrain from walking on floors in socks. Slippers with no-skid grip on the soles are a safe and comfortable alternative.
Bathroom safety tips
The majority of accidents among the elderly happen in the bathroom--unfortunately when your loved one is alone and most vulnerable. Prevent bathroom injuries with the following tips:
- Install a level-entry shower. Stepping over the slippery bathtub edge increases the risk of a painful fall. Instead, install a shower stall with a level floor surface, allowing your loved one to easily step inside.
- Install hand rails. Stabilizing hand rails around the toilet and shower support your loved one if he or she slips. Bathroom floors (especially in the shower) are often wet and slick, increasing the probability of injury.
- Use nightlights. If he or she needs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, a nightlight will help illuminate the way.
- Skid-proof the shower floor or tub. Using non-skid mats in the shower will prevent falls. You should also place mats in front of the toilet and sink to make moving around the bathroom easier and safer.
- Install a shower chair. A shower bench or chair is helpful to seniors with limited mobility so they can be more comfortable and stable while showering.
Kitchen safety tips
Sharp objects, fire hazards and slick surfaces make the kitchen a dangerous place for seniors. If your elderly loved one will be making his or her own meals, the following will ensure safety:
- Store hazardous items separate from food. Make sure all cleaning products or toxic chemicals are secured safely away fromfood products to eliminate the risk of confusion or contamination.
- Keep common items in an easy-to-reach places. Don't store everyday food items or supplies in high, low, or otherwise hard-to-reach places. Mid-height storage is optimal for seniors to eliminate reaching and bending.
- Make the stove safe. Label stove and oven controls clearly and make sure gas ranges have a pilot light and automatic shut-off. Don't keep towels, curtains, or other hanging, flammable items in the stovetop's proximity that could create a fire hazard.
- Store sharp knives in a rack. Never leave sharp knives lying with exposed blades in a drawer--instead store them in a rack or butcher block so only their blunt handles safely protrude.
Medication safety tips
If your loved one is taking medications, it' crucial he or she takes them correctly and on time.
- Make sure medicines are clearly labeled. Ensuring your loved one takes the right medicine and the correct dose is essential to prevent serious complications. Re-label prescription medications with all pertinent information (name of medication, purpose, dose, and other important specifications) in larger, easier to read type.
- Dispose of old or used medicines. Help your loved one keep his or her medicine cabinet organized and updated. Make sure to dispose of expired medications promptly.
- Check with the doctor or pharmacist before mixing non-prescription drugs and prescription drugs. If your loved one is considering taking any new non-prescription drugs for any reason, be sure to advise that he she speaks with the doctor or pharmacist first to find out about possible side effects or complications.