Aging is a natural part of life, but so is the desire for independence. Seniors tend to experience a mix of both, wanting to stay in their own homes while simultaneously needing a bit of extra care. Fear not, there are ways to make this happen.
This article is going to overview some of the elements of ensuring that your home is ideal for aging in safely, and happily.
Safety needs to become a number one priority. You need to ensure that, in the event of an emergency, every one in the home has the ability to 1) be forewarned 2) deal with the emergency 3) access emergency services as needed. This can take some planning ahead, but it is well worth the effort. By making safety a priority, you’re ensuring that that person can safely live out their days in the comfort of their own home.
Consider the following list when making safety a priority:
- Communication systems. It may be worth it to look into installing intercoms throughout the house, or purchasing a mobile phone that can move around as needed, this ensures that help is always within reach.
- Exposed piping for the hot water system should be corrected, as this can be an easy way to burn oneself unintentionally.
- Extra light switches should be used to make it easier for the senior(s) to get the lights on and off, exactly when they need to.
- Fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers should be in the kitchen and in any room with a fireplace, to ensure the potential to put out smaller fires that can be managed.
- Handrails should be along every staircase (no exceptions) to make it easier to move throughout the house
- Install (or maintain) smoke alarms on every floor of the house. This means not only installing new ones where needed, but also performing regular tests and checking the batteries where possible.
- Lighting is an important feature of every room, hallway, staircase, and porch. Ensure that these areas are well lit to prevent unnecessary accidents.
- Protective screens for fireplaces
- Provide a carbon monoxide detector that sounds a verbal alarm. The alarm should ring clearly and loudly, and explain what is going on if possible. This will allow every one in the house the opportunity to hear and understand the degree of emergency.
- Snow removal. Make sure that there is a plan for taking care of snow and ice in hazardous weather conditions in Southern Australia.
- Safety plans. There should be plans in place for emergency escapes, earthquakes, or unplanned medical attacks.
Get rid of hazards that make the home unsafe
Prioritising safety isn’t just about adding things to the house, it can be about taking things away that are unnecessarily dangerous. Consider the following list of hazards when looking for things that may need to be removed from the home:
- Area rugs
- Electrical cords (which can be taped back rather than removed if necessary)
- Loose carpet
- Raised doorway thresholds
Even over and above things that need to be removed, don’t forget to do the following to keep yourself and your loved ones safe:
- Clean up spills immediately
- Rearrange furniture in a way that it provides a clear path throughout the house
- Put rubber tips on walking aids (crutches, walkers, canes) and clean them regularly with steel wool
Safety proofing the bathroom
We gave the bathroom its own section because, let’s face it, a lot of accidents seem to happen with aging individuals in the bathroom. From falls to wet floors, this place can become quite dangerous if you don’t mind the potential hazards. Keep the following tips in mind when keeping yourself and your loved ones safe in the bathroom.
- Always get in the tub by placing your weaker leg in first, and out of the bathtub by placing your stronger leg out first
- Benches by the bathtub, or even chairs within it, can enable some people to support themselves while washing.
- Grab handles can make it easier for people to climb in and out of the tub, and get up and down from the toilet
- Long handled scrubs can be a great tool for getting yourself clean without straining.
- Non skid mats can be used to counteract the natural slipperiness of the bathroom floor and tub
Being safe in day to day activities
The final area of safety that we’ll address is day to day activities. There are several things you can do to make these activities as easy as possible, and hopefully to prevent a few accidents from happening along the way.
- Don’t be afraid to use reaching devices, or very secure ladders, to get to hard to reach items. NEVER climb up on a chair, or use an insecure ladder.
- Ensure that all buttons in the house (on the phone, television remote, and even on the intercom) are well marked and large enough to read.
- Keep things accessible by placing items you need regularly on lower shelves.
- Place storage benches or surfaces around the doors of the house to make it easy to get the door closed while carrying items in.
- Take extra trips rather than overloading yourself when carrying things into the house.
- Try to wear non-slip shoes or slippers within the house at all times (to support you and prevent a fall).
- Replace worn shoes.
Living at home can be a reality, even as individuals age, if only safety becomes a priority. Make it your job to prevent accidents before they happen, and to have plans in place for if they should occur. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll already have gone a long way to keeping yourself and your family safe, and you’ll be able to rest easier knowing that you did.