Elderly family members are the most at risk of injury at home. One big reason, is they are more at risk of falling and injuring themselves. People tend to fall and hurt themselves much more as they age. Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall. Additionally, older people are much more likely to die as a result of a fire. For example people aged people aged 65-74 are twice as likely to die in a home fire, while people aged 75-84 are four times more likely to die in a fire. Many people try to prevent these injuries by putting their elderly loved ones in retirement homes, where they have people to take care of them. But this isn’t something that elderly people want to do. A study by age safe America found 90% of older Americans want to stay in their own home rather than a retirement home but 85% have done nothing to prepare their homes to be safe for the elderly. To address this issue, this article outlines some of the things you can do to make your home safer for your elderly loved ones:
As people age there are several factors that increase the likelihood of falling and hurting yourself. Here are some of the main ones:
Decline in Fitness: Lack of physical activity results in decreased bone mass, loss of balance and slower reaction times.
Poor vision: This makes it harder to see potential hazards like steps, puddles, changes in ground level which can make it much more likely to suffer a bad fall.
Medication: Over 40% of seniors take at least 5 drugs per week. The side effects of these drugs can be drowsiness, dizziness and low blood pressure which makes it more likely for an elderly person to suffer a fall.
Chronic Diseases: Poor Health conditions like Parkinson’s disease or arthritis can lead to poor grip strength, balance and cognitive impairment. These all increase the risk of an elderly person suffering a bad fall.
Surgical Procedures: Common procedures like hip replacements can leave elderly people less mobile than they were before.
The most common place for elderly people to fall is in the bathroom, the wet floor and bathtub makes it easy to fall if you have bad balance. Here are some things you can do to reduce the chances of this:
Install grab bars in the shower
Curbless showers so there is nothing to step over or they can be rolled in while in a wheelchair
Widen entry doors to at least 32 inches
Use anti-scald shower valves, these regulate the water temperature and keep older people from scalding themselves (no higher than 120 F)
Get bathing chairs in the shower
Install hand-held showerheads so they don’t need to reach above them
Remove the bathroom mirror. If they are suffering from dementia seeing an unfamiliar face may startle them.
Install a raised toilet seat with a handlebar so its easier to sit and stand.
Put rubber mats in the bathtub to prevent slipping
General House Tips
Remove unnecessary fall hazards: It’s important to make your space as open as possible. This means things like removing clutter from the floor and keeping extensions cords out of the way. You can also keep walking aids like canes and non-slip shoes around the house and easily acceptable.
Protect against fire: Have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors checked regularly. Remove candles and check electric cords of all appliances to ensure they aren’t damaged.
Have proper lighting: Older people tend to have worse balance and poor vision which means its easier for them to trip and fall on something in a poorly lit room. Consider installing motion detection lighting inside and around your home so that it will turn on whenever the elderly person needs it and it conserves more electricity than traditional lights.
Fallproof the stairs: Test the stair railings to make sure they are solid. You can also color code alternating steps to make it easier for elderly people to see, considering their poor vision. Lastly, be sure to clean outdoor stairs especially during the wintertime of ice and snow.
Check in with them regularly: This goes beyond just calling them over the phone, you want to drop in and see how they are coping. Be sure to observe how easily they can move around the house, get up the stairs, get items from shelves etc.
Get a Home Security Assessment: Getting a one-time home security assessment is a good way to know what you need to change at your house if you’re going to start taking care of an elderly family member. The good thing is, since most people don’t change houses very often, one assessment can last you several years and ensure you have a home that is suitable for an elderly person.
Keep them active: Its naturally to lose fitness as you age but continuing to keep active will help to mitigate the loss of muscle mass, bone density, mobility and flexibility. This will in turn make it less likely for them to suffer a bad fall and make them more autonomous in their own homes.
This is a really good way for an elderly person to get help in the event they do suffer a bad fall. A panic pendant is a small portable, battery operated device that ensures that the wearer always has access to the help that they need during an emergency, such as a break-in or a debilitating fall. This is particularly useful for taking care of elderly family members that are prone to falling and hurting themselves. The user just needs to push the button and a signal is sent back to the monitoring professional who will determine what type of help the person needs e.g. fire department, medical help or law enforcement and issues that request. An LED flashes to let the wearer know when help has been sent.
Elderly people are at a heightened risk of injury at home, especially if they live alone. Since over 90% of elderly people would prefer to live in their own home, its important to make the home safe for them. It’s important that you take time to prep the bathroom, because that’s where most debilitating falls happen. In addition to that ensure that the home is well lit, that they have walking aids around the house and keep the stairs clean and easy to climb. You also want to keep your elderly family members as active as possible so that they will be less prone to bad falls and will be as autonomous as they can going into their later years.