As a person ages, there are a number of considerations when organizing a home or living space with safety and convenience in mind. Older bodies often have issues with balance, eyesight, hearing, and quick response action to a threat such as a wobbly railing or grease fire. Each room in the home must be carefully set-up to ensure the safety and convenience of the seniors living there. This is doubly important if the senior is living alone and will have no immediate person to respond to an emergency need. Looking at each room in a home, here are things to check:
- There should be ease of movement between furniture and in hallways with a no-clutter rule in place.
- There should be no loose scatter rugs anywhere as falls happen quickly when loose rugs slide. Older bones break easily, and falls are one of the highest forms of tragedy among seniors.
- Small, plug-in night lights should be placed in every room, including hallways. Seniors often have trouble sleeping and will get up at night, so they need to be sure of their surroundings.
- ALL cords should be plugged in in such a way as to keep them out of the way. Tripping is another way seniors fall.
- Keep a “grabber” in each room to use for picking up dropped objects. This will greatly help prevent back, hip, and shoulder stress.
- If there are stairs, be sure all handrails are secure and strong enough to support a person’s weight.
Kitchen: Probably the most dangerous room in the home for seniors, kitchens pose a number of accident threats if safety precautions are not established. Such tragedies as burns fall, and sickness from spoiled food are all too common. Take time to:
- Make sure an easily operated fire extinguisher is insight, and the persons living in the home know how to use it.
- Keep a roll of paper towels handy for immediate clean-up of water spills, so often the cause of falls. A grabber can be used to hold the paper towels to sop up the spills, so the senior does not have to bend over.
- Have an easy to use the timer on or by the stove and make sure the senior knows how to use it. Explain why all cooking should be timed as short term memory can be almost non-existent and lead to forgetting that something is cooking.
- Have plenty of covered containers available for storing leftover food. Keep a permanent marker handy to mark the date on all food stored in the fridge so it can be disposed of if not used in a couple of days.
- Encourage seniors to use plastic drinking glasses rather than glass to avoid breakage.
- Have rugs and carpets securely installed and use a short pile rather than a shag, which can cause tripping.
- Use furniture without sharp edges or glass tops.
- Have chairs easy to get in and out of and small, decorative pillows for supporting backs.
- Keep a magnifying glass within easy reach to read the small print—especially important for reading prescription details.
- Again, make sure carpets and rugs are secure.
- The height of the bed is important as if it is too high, a senior may fall trying to get in or out of bed.
- Keep closet rods low enough, so high reaching isn’t necessary.
- Have emergency phone numbers on a bedside stand ready for immediate use. Many seniors still use landlines, so a phone by the bed is a good idea.
Bathroom: This is another room of potential danger. Falls in tubs and showers make up a high percentage of serious senior accidents.
- Have aids such as toilet bars, tub and shower seats, tub rails, and always slip-resistant mats installed.
- Set the temperature on the water heater to a degree, not hot enough to burn skin.
- Again, keep paper towels handy for water spills
- Make sure seniors understand the danger of using anything electric such as a radio or hair dryer near water.
- Keep only medicines needed and understood in the medicine cabinet
- Use plastic or paper cups for rinsing
- Store towels and linens on easy to reach shelves
Making sure the home where seniors live is safe and secure is vitally important to the everyday safety and well being of these valued members of society. They have raised families, provided support for communities, and given much to many. Now let’s make sure their final years are comfortable and hopefully accident-free.