Aging at home is what most older Americans desire, mainly due to the comfort of being somewhere they are familiar with and the privacy and independence that it offers. If you are a caregiver or caring for an aging relative, it’s important to keep the home safe in order to prevent falls, burns, or poisoning. These things may sound impossible, but they are in fact the most common injuries of the aging adult living at home.
1. Keep the floors clear. This may seem obvious, but a cluttered hallway or room can increase the chances of a trip or fall, especially if the adult is using a walker or a cane. By making sure there is a place for everything, not only will it remove hazards, it will help everyone know where to find an item when they need it. It will also be helpful to make sure that corners of tables or chairs are not sticking out into walkways.
2. Keep emergency numbers close. The front of the fridge or the back of a pantry cabinet is a great place to tape a piece of paper with all the phone numbers an aging adult may need to know in a hurry. Some important numbers are 911 (which seems obvious but people with cognitive decline may need the reminder), closest relative, doctor’s office, and poison control. Practice going through some emergency situations if your loved one is alone often or doesn’t have a cell phone.
3. Install safety rails. This simple home modification can pay back dividends in preventing injuries. Important places to install rails would be any staircase (inside and out), the bathrooms and tubs or showers, and even near a bed to help the aging adult get up in the morning. These simple bars offer support and strength that will keep the adult living independently for a longer period of time.
4. Don’t pick your poison. From carbon monoxide in gas stoves to taking medications improperly, it’s no wonder that poisoning is a common occurrence among the older population. Make sure there is a fire alarm in every room and carbon monoxide alarm in the kitchen and hallway. Never mix cleaning products and keep them clearly labeled. Make sure all medications are clearly labeled, as pharmacist will print the labels in large print if you ask. Keep all the medicine in their original containers so there are no mixups or accidents.
Taking some simple steps in the home of an aging adult can greatly reduce the chances of an accident. Include your loved one in the process, and ask them if there is anything specific they are having a problem with. If there is resistance, gently explain that all of this is being done for them to keep their independence longer and not to restrict them in anyway.
These statements have not been evaluated by a medical professional and are not intended to take the place of a doctor’s advice. If you have questions or concerns regarding your health, always see your doctor.