Baby-proofing Your Aging Parents’ Home
Often times in life everything comes full circle. Our parents kept us safe when we were youngsters, and now it is our turn to be sure our Golden Oldies’ homes are as safe as possible for them as they age. The goal is to allow them to live safely in their own homes (or age in place) as long as possible!
Many seniors have diminishing eyesight, hearing and/or reflexes, plus are at a higher risk for falls. Since June is National Home Safety Month, here is a checklist to review with (or without) your parents to assess how safe their homes are.
- Install handrails in stairways and grab bars in the bathroom near the toilet, in the shower and and along the tub. Be sure they are installed at the correct height for your parents’ use (not based on your height).
- Keep all rooms and hallways where your Golden Oldies walk and/or read well lit. Be sure lighting inside and outside the home is more than adequate. Place night lights as needed in the bathroom, bedroom, hallway and/or kitchen if you know your parents walk around during the night. (Don’t we all at some time?)
- Make entryways safe — from the curb all the way through the front door. Are the walkways and steps smooth and without bumps, cracks or missing pieces? Lighting is also vital outdoors at night. Consider installing motion-sensor lights in the front, side and/or back yards. If there are handrails outside, be sure they are in good repair. Consider adding them if you think they will increase safety. You may also want to add a ramp if there are steps up to the front door in order to plan ahead “just in case.” Or put fluorescent tape on the edge of steps to make them extra visible.
- Watch for worn carpeting, linoleum, wood flooring or tiles and replace them immediately. Seniors may catch their feet easily and fall. Use non-skid throw rugs to reduce the chance of slipping on linoleum.
According to the National Safety Council, “Each week, nearly 60,000 people older than 65 seek medical attention for a fall and more than 300 die from fall-related injuries.” The risk of falling increases if seniors are in stocking feet or barefoot. So encourage them to wear proper footwear, preferably athletic shoes or shoes with rubber soles. The Council also recommends we monitor medications our parents are taking because studies show older adults who take more than four medications are at a high risk for falls.
An idea I have is to do a thorough safety check from the street all throughout our parents’ homes with dark sunglasses on, to simulate diminished light (or eyesight). It’s a perspective on how things may actually look through the eyes of our Golden Oldies. While doing so, also check for furniture or other clutter that could be in the way of their natural walking patterns inside and outside.
Let’s make every month National Safety Month when it comes to our Golden Oldies.
Here’s to more TLeC, or Tender Loving ElderCare!