Last week I talked about how to make your home safer for your aging loved one. I shared the top 5 Home Hazards that Home Instead Senior Care finds in the homes of their clients, and also suggested ways to remove the danger from these issues.
This week I’d like to consider the next 5 Hazards found in Home Instead client homes. Again, ask yourself how many of these you might see in your loved one’s home or even your own!
- Rooms crowded with clutter or too much furniture: I see this all the time in the homes of older adults. My own mother’s living room had a sofa, loveseat, two end-tables, two arm-chairs and two recliners. You could barely walk through the room upright, never mind with a walker! My mother accumulated this furniture over many years. It had lots of sentimental value, and she would never let any of it go, but because it was such a crowded room, she rarely went in it over the last several years of her life. A word of warning must be shared here, however. Be careful to have a conversation with others who live in the room before you begin to rearrange rooms.
- Steep steps, or bedrooms or laundry room that requires climbing stairs: Single-floor houses are best for aging adults. A floor plan that has the bedroom, laundry, kitchen, bathroom and living room/den all on a single floor that does not require stairs is ideal for healthy aging. If your home, or the home of the person you care for, has stairs leading up or down, try to minimize or even eliminate their use for your older adult. Many conditions make balance issues and risk of falling a dangerous possibility for people of advanced age, and stairs dramatically increase this risk. If you cannot relocate to a different living environment, consider putting in a chair lift that will let a person ride up the incline in comfort and safety. Another alternative might be to put a barrier in front of the stairs and rearrange the home, so sleeping space or the laundry center moves to the living level. You might also consider adding an extension on one level to create a “mother-in-law” suite. The remodel works well and enables your loved one to have personal space in your home.
- Low supply of food: Often, seniors find themselves needing to choose between paying for utilities, buying medications, and purchasing groceries. As a Family Caregiver, it’s your responsibility to make sure the budget can meet the needs of your loved one or seek assistance to supplement their shortfall. Programs like Meals on Wheels can assist with nutritional support; some pharmaceutical companies will offer lower prices if the patient cannot afford food and their medicine. Utility companies sometimes have charitable programs to supplement or discount your loved one’s rate. Check with your local Social Service Agency for more ideas on how to get assistance if your loved one cannot afford proper nutrition. And if they don’t have groceries merely because they cannot shop for themselves any longer, a service like Home Instead can offer a professional CAREGiver who can pick up groceries and put them away in your loved one’s home.
- Poor lighting: Seniors of advanced age don’t see as well as younger people, and they might not notice when light bulbs have burned out, or they might not be able to reach the light fixture to replace the bulb. The Family Caregiver should walk through the house periodically, turning on light switches and checking to see if bulbs are burned out. A poorly lit hallway or living space can provide any number of hazards in the dimly lighted area. A little illumination will go a long way toward making the space safer!
- No telephone at the bedside: This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is even more critical that the bedside phone is able to accommodate hearing loss or the diminished ability to hear well. My mom’s bedside phone was decades old, and she could no longer hear on it. It had a cord that was so twisted that it pulled the base off the table every time she picked up the handset. She would answer that phone when she was in her bedroom and say, “Hold on, I can’t hear you on this phone. Just wait while I go get the other phone (which was out in her kitchen).” She would lay the phone down, and I would hear her shuffle from the room. In a couple of minutes, she would pick up the cordless phone, which was adjusted up to its loudest volume, and say, “Now I’m here. Let me go back and hang up the other one, but you can talk now.” I urged her countless times to let me replace the bedside phone with the same cordless model she had in the kitchen, but she insisted that it was just fine. If your senior has a reliable phone by the bed, then if they are afraid in the night, they can call for help. Likewise, if they feel unwell, or even lonely, they don’t have to go through the house in the dark to get a phone from another room. It’s just smart to have this.
Wow, that’s a lot to worry about in your loved one’s home! But remember, God is in control of this. He’s watching over your loved one when you aren’t there. You need to do your part to make his or her environment as safe as possible, but then rest assured that when you can’t be there, God’s angels are. And He will never let you, or those you love, down!
Share your heart with us and let us know if you have any useful safety tips.