We can’t be with our parents or grandparents 24/7. And let’s face it—they don’t really want us looking over their shoulders day after day.
Even from miles away, you can still protect your loved ones as they age in place. As we wrap up National Safety Month this June, take the time to make some simple home modifications when you’re over for a visit. By following a few quick tips and picking up a few supplies from the hardware, big box store or your accessibility dealer, you’ll help safeguard your parents against the biggest threats to their safety and well-being.
Update the bathroom. Eighty percent of the falls seniors suffer occur in the smallest room of the house. To protect your loved one, purchase a waterproof chair for the shower, adhere a non-slip mat to the tub or shower floor, and install grip bars on the walls of the stall. Because many seniors trip around the toilet, add a raised toilet seat and grab bars to their safety plan as well.
Skip the slips. Muscle weakness and vision problems can increase a senior’s risk of slipping, one of the leading causes of injury among adults. Walk in your parents’ footsteps throughout their house to look for possible tripping hazards. If needed, remove rugs or tack them down with rug safety grips or nonskid tape and attach electrical and telephone cords to the wall with electrical tape or a staple gun. Motion detection lighting can also help seniors as they move around a room at night.
Put a chill on burns. Twenty percent of patients in hospital burn units are over age 65. One of the easiest ways to reduce the risk of scalding is lowering the water heater thermostat to 120 degrees/40 celsius. Encourage your loved one to avoid wearing flowy fabrics, which can easily catch fire around gas burners and encourage them to switch out their stove for a microwave. If they have hearing problems, purchase and install smoke detectors that also have a visual warning signal, such as a strobe light.
Take a peek out the door. Most home burglaries occur during the daytime hours—the exact time when a senior is likely to be home alone. Install a smart home motion-activated security system at the front and back doors to be alerted when anyone arrives. It can also help monitor when your loved one leaves if wandering due to cognitive issues or if dementia is a worry. Many of these systems cost just a few dollars a month and are easy to install.
Rearrange the shelves. Reaching for items on high shelves can be dangerous if a senior with mobility issues tries to climb to grab them. Move frequently used items to easily accessible shelving, and if it would be helpful, buy a grabber tool for items out of arm’s reach.
Keep in contact. A medical alert system can assist your loved one in the event of an illness or fall. But if they’re not at that point in their life yet, urge them to always have a cell phone handy. For instance, a magnetic travel pouch used by runners, can be slipped into a waistband to hold your loved one’s phone wherever they move throughout the house.
One of the best ways to defend your loved one against slips and falls is to request a home assessment from an expert in senior mobility. An accessibility expert can identify hazardous areas in your parents’ or grandparents’ home and recommend safety products, to make each room more secure.