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Creating a Safe Environment for Your Aging Loved One

Each year in the United States, more than a third of adults age 65 and older experience a fall with potentially dangerous consequences. According to the Center for Disease Control, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and most common cause of nonfatal injuries among older adults.

These statistics remind us that one of the biggest things we can do to protect our aging loved ones is to provide them a safe environment that is free of hazards that may provoke a fall or other injury. Decreased sight and hearing, loss of strength and balance, and forgetfulness all contribute to falls and other injuries among aging adults.

Here are some simple steps you can take to make your loved one’s home a safer place to live:

Around the home

  • Install plenty of lighting, especially on stairs, entrance ways, and high-traffic areas, so that your loved one can see clearly and avoid tripping.
  • Replace standard light switches with rocker switches; use illuminated switches in areas of the house where nighttime activity occurs.
  • Reduce slipping hazards by removing throw rugs or securing them in place with double-sided carpet tape, tacks or rubber mats placed underneath. Do the same with stair treads.
  • Install non-slip mats or rugs in areas with slippery waxed floors.
  • Reduce all clutter and remove furniture that may be easy to trip over.
  • Replace door knobs with lever handles on all doors.

Stairways & Entryways

  • Mount secure hand rails on both sides of all stairways, including steps to the front and back doors of the house, so your loved one has a reliable way to support themselves.
  • Install light switches at the bottom and top of all stairways.
  • If your loved one uses a wheelchair or has trouble with steps, install a ramp for accessing the main door to the house.
  • Place reflective, non-slip tape on all stairs that don’t have carpet.
  • Remove thresholds from doorways and entryways that may be easy to trip over. Ramps are a good way to do this.
  • Put a bench for sitting on in the entryway of the house. Your loved one can use it to place packages on when they come through the door, or to sit on to rest or put their boots.

Bathrooms

  • Install sturdy, stainless-steel hand rails in the shower/bathtub and next to the toilet. Installing grab bars on the edge of the tub is a good idea too. Make sure all hand rails and grab bars are anchored securely.
  • Install a walk-in shower to avoid the need to climb over the edge of a tub.
  • Put a rubber mat and a sitting bench in the bathtub/shower to eliminate slipping or loss of balance.
  • Keep medicines stored separately from cleaning products and store them in their original containers with clear labeling.
  • Keep cleaning products stored separately from toiletries and grooming products.
  • Install a raised toilet seat if needed.
  • Lower the sink to a comfortable height.

Kitchen

  • Install a smoke alarm
  • Supply a sturdy step stool with safety rail for reaching objects on shelves or other high locations.
  • Provide additional lighting over the stove and work areas.
  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation for the stove and check for leaks in gas stoves.
  • Ensure that all electrical appliances are properly grounded to avoid shocks.
  • Provide dustpans and brooms with long handles so that your loved one doesn’t have to bend over to pick up trash.
  • Store all pots, pans and other heavy objects down low and remove all items from shelves and places that are difficult to reach. Items that are used regularly, should be stored in easy-to-reach places that don’t require bending or reaching.
  • Install handles on all cabinet doors and drawers that are easy to grab.

Bedrooms

  • Install a smoke alarm and help your loved one to understand the best route for escape in case of a fire.
  • Put in nightlights in the bedroom and hallway so that your loved one doesn’t have to fumble around in the dark.
  • Install handles on all dressers and drawers that are easy to grab.
  • Remove all clutter and tripping hazards between the bedroom and bathroom.
  • Provide lamps close to the bed that respond to touch or audible commands, so that your loved one can easily turn the light on and off. You can also move the bed close to a light switch.
  • Put a telephone with large buttons next to the bed. Post important phone numbers next to it and program emergency numbers into speed dial. This makes help easy to reach in an emergency.

Living Room

  • Make sure that all sitting furniture has arms so that your loved one can easily lower themselves or stand. Sitting surfaces should not be so low or high that your loved one has difficulty sitting in them or standing up out of them.
  • Remove any furniture that will not support a person’s weight if leaned upon.
  • Clear the floor of loose cords, carpet or other tripping hazards and make sure there is plenty of open space for walking through.

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May be reprinted in electronic or print format at no charge if ShirleyBOARD.com is referenced as the source of the article. It is unlawful to change the content of this article.

 
    
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