June is National Safety Month, so Chris and I thought we’d share a little about ways to make your home, or that of a loved one, safer to support successful aging.
Most senior adult injuries occur within their own homes. The good news here is that you can remedy most of the hazards that could lead to injuries with a few simple steps. The bad news is that all too often the risks remain because they go unnoticed and unrecognized for the dangers they present.
Home Instead Senior Care identified the top 10 safety issues commonly found in the home of an aging adult. This week we will cover five and then next week the remainder. See how many are in your home or that of the person for whom you care.
- Loose area rugs: These are throw rugs used as accents around the house. While pretty or unusual decorator’s touches, they are not safe for someone who uses a walker or shuffles when they walk. Sometimes these rugs “creep” and have ridges and humps that develop periodically. Believe me when I tell you that no carpet is worth the pain and trauma of a broken hip, which can quickly happen with a trip and fall. Roll it up and put it in storage.
- The absence of a “life alert” system: These systems can alert you or another contact if your loved one falls or feels unsafe. Most require a button to be pushed, but newer versions have technology that will recognize a fall in its rapid motion from vertical to horizontal. Some systems aren’t worn but use infrared technology to “see” a person’s movement in different areas of the house. These can even learn patterns, establish baselines, and then recognize disruptions that can indicate a reduction in activity level, increase in bathroom visits, or even the occurrence of a fall. These usually require the purchase of the system and a monthly monitoring fee, but the price is well worth the peace of mind you can find when you have one of these systems.
- Spoiled food in the fridge: This is one of the most straightforward hazards to fix, but unlike some of the others, it requires routine inspections of the refrigerator and pantry. Many seniors become dependent on prepackaged foods, frozen meals, and simple-to-fix options. One of your jobs as a Family Caregiver is to encourage your aging loved one to eat healthier meals, which should include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that won’t hang around long enough to spoil! If your loved one cannot chew those kinds of foods easily anymore, consider investing in a commercial blender and getting some great green smoothie recipes. We have a link to a website in our resources that will give you some ideas.
- No safety bar in the shower or tub: Don’t be fooled here. My mom tried one of those suction-cup grab bars on the wall next to her bathtub, but it was never secure enough to be reliable. Grab bars aren’t expensive, but if you or someone you know isn’t great at wall work, then hire a handyman. You might spend twice or more than you did on the grab bar, but your investment will be well worth every penny if it breaks a fall stepping out of the shower. Your grab bars should be able to support a good, hard pull when correctly installed.
- The shower is in the tub, requiring the senior to step over the tub wall: Speaking of bathtubs, as you age, it is harder to pick your knees up high, unless you are one of the Dancing Grannies! If your loved one has always enjoyed taking baths, that pleasure doesn’t have to stop because mobility is now a challenge, but you should help make this exercise safer while still being pleasant. There are lots of ways you can approach this challenge. First, you can remodel the bathroom and install a walk-in bathtub. There are several models to choose from, but I recommend one that drains quickly. Remember, you cannot step out until all the water is gone, and it will be quite unpleasant to sit, wet and chilly, while water takes several minutes to drain. Newer technology allows for tubs that empty in a couple of minutes. Alternatively, for those who enjoy showering, consider removing the bathtub and replacing it with a roll-in shower with no impediment. Newer shower designs allow for a floor drain that absorbs all the water, so none runs out onto the bathroom floor, where it would create another hazard!
Well, that’s enough hazardous talk for this week. I hope you will visit again next week to hear about the other five hazards Home Instead has found to be in almost every aging person’s home, and how to avoid them!