Do it Yourself: Safety Tips for Senior Citizens
Most senior citizens feel comfortable in their own homes or senior living communities. However, this comfort can also lead to a reduced awareness of hazards that can lead to a painful injury.
While safety is important to advocate to everyone, the elderly find themselves more likely to be injured due to falls, fractures or broken bones because of bone loss, bone fragility and osteoporosis. Senior living communities are often equipped with handrails, safe floors that are not too slippery, ramps as opposed to stairs and several other safety precautions. For those seniors who are still living at home, however, it is important to take proper precautions to make sure the home is safe.
Here are some simple, affordable ways you can reduce the risk of falls and other injuries in your home or assisted living community:
The bathroom is one of the most dangerous areas of any home, thanks to the slippery surfaces that can cause falls and small space that makes it tough to move around safely. You can improve the safety and comfort of your bathroom by:
- Installing a 'comfort height' toilet that makes it easier to sit and stand.
- Replacing your bathtub with a walk-in shower and a bathing seat.
- Place non-skid strips on the floor of your tub or shower.
- Use a hand-held lightweight shower head to make bathing and cleaning easier.
- Replace your old faucets with temperature-controlled faucets to prevent scalding burns.
- Add a motion-sensor light or night light to your bathroom for added safety at night.
- Install grab bars throughout the room, which can also serve as towel racks.
Many seniors enjoy spending time in the kitchen during their retirement years. To keep cooks safe:
- Install and regularly maintain a high-quality smoke detector that has a 'hush' feature to temporarily silence false alarms.
- Replace old, worn-out appliances with new models to reduce the risk of shock or electrical fires.
- Regularly clean out vents and grease traps.
- Keep both a fire blanket and a fire extinguisher handy.
- Move heavy dishes and pots to lower cabinets that are easier to reach.
- Invest in appliances that shut off automatically, such as induction stovetops and kettles that can't be boiled dry.
General Home Safety
By taking the time to increase the safety of your home you will help prevent injuries to yourself and your loved ones.
- Remove any tripping hazards like loose area rugs, uneven floorboards, or extension cords.
- Place motion-activated lights throughout your home to improve visibility.
- Use timers to turn lights on at dusk.
- Purchase battery-backup lighting that is activated during a power outage.
- Keep your doors and windows locked at all times - many break-ins occur during daylight hours.
- Maintain an emergency supply of food and water along with a week's worth of any prescription medications.
- Keep rooms clean and free of clutter
- Make sure walkways are free of cords and wires
- Ensure that floors are not too slippery and be aware of differences in floor levels when entering and exiting rooms
- Make sure there is nothing on stairwells and that they are properly lit
- Consider taking a portable phone with you as you move room to room just in case a fall occurs
- Use rubber matting, a shower chair and if necessary hand rails inside the shower
When aging adults travel outdoors, they might not think of all of the precautions they should take in order to remain as safe as possible.
- Use a walker or cane in bad weather or for long distances for added stability
- Look carefully at outdoor surfaces and pick an alternate route if needed
- Use a shoulder bag or backpack to keep hands free
- Stop and be aware of curb height when walking and stepping down
Giving up the car keys may rank as high on the emotional scale as the decision to move into an assisted living community. Driving is a symbol of independence and control and so too is running the affairs of a home; losing control of either one can throw an older adult into a state of grief.
- Slip into the passenger seat and observe your parent driving. Make notes about changing lanes, speed and alertness to others on the road; concerns in these areas should guide your conversation.
- Plan the talk--have a meeting among siblings. Discuss your observations with siblings; let them become a beacon of support when it’s time for the talk. With their backing and a respectful, tactful approach you may be able to convince your senior parent that the time has come to give up their driver’s license.
- If memory loss and signs of deteriorating mental health is a factor, your parent is no longer competent to drive. People often forget how complex a task driving is. It requires attentiveness to various stimuli, eventually adapted as second nature. But the skill quickly reverts to its original complexity once memory loss causes you to lose track.
- Request a retest of your parent’s driver’s license. If your state allows a retest, your aging parent’s driving competence can be legally determined. Many people who should not be driving can’t pass the test. The request for retesting can be done anonymously or through a physician. Further information on requesting a retest can be had from the DMV website.
- Have a Plan B for getting around. Before the talk, figure out alternative means of transportation. Never allow your loved one to feel trapped or cut off from participating in normal every day activities. Take steps to hire a driver, get family members to chip-in or utilize local community services that offer transportation assistance and have that information ready to share with your loved one.
- Plan Ahead Make sure your aging loved one’s vehicle is in decent operating condition. Windshield wipers, lights and the defroster should all work properly, while tires should have plenty of tread. Schedule a maintenance check with your mechanic to ensure that the car battery is good and fluid levels are sufficient. Also, make sure your loved one keeps the gas tank at least half-filled at all times.
- Prepare for Emergencies. Make sure the car is stocked with an emergency supply kit, including warm clothes and blankets, an ice scraper, a working cell phone, and jumper cables. Meanwhile, anyone who's ever been stranded in a snowstorm can attest to the value of a AAA membership.
- Watch the Weather Encourage your loved one to watch the forecast before heading out, whether it be just to run some errands, meet a friend for lunch, or go to the doctor’s office. Tracking the forecast is an effective first line of defense. If travel is necessary, ask your aging loved one to limit driving to daylight hours and call to confirm plans before making the decision to drive.
Although being alert and making sure your home is safe, it is also important to maintain a regular exercise program to stay as healthy and strong as possible. You should also have your vision checked on a regular basis, review the medications you are taking to be aware of any drug interactions, and make regular doctor’s appointments to stay on top of health conditions.
Make sure you use these tips to advocate for safety throughout your aging loved one's home or community.
About Chelsea Sayegh
I started working as a Marketing Coordinator for United Methodist Homes in October of 2016. I work on public relations, website management and community planning for their award winning independent and assisted living communities. As a graduate of Ursinus College with a degree in Media and Communications and a passion for serving nonprofits, United Methodist Homes has become my home away from home. I spend my days working in a community filled with smiling faces, helpful hands and wonderful residents. I have a passion for assisting seniors and take great pride in being able to promote a company with such a positive mission and values. As an individual committed to learning and growing, I have jumped right into this exciting career!
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.