Are your elderly parents still safe living at home? Even though they may be mentally sharp, their reaction times and physical abilities are most likely deteriorating over time. If you are concerned about the safety of your parents in their current home, rest assured that there are relatively inexpensive measures you can take to keep them safe and independent for years to come.
As might be expected, elderly people want to stay independent for as long as they can. The last thing they want to feel like is a burden on their families. But according to the National Safety Council, falls are the leading cause of injury death among people 65 and older. Removing potential hazards in your parent’s home will not only give you and them peace of mind, but it will also save money if the alternative is placing them in assisted living.
The bathroom is one of the more hazardous places in the house. More accidents occur there for people of all ages than in the rest of the house. It is especially important to keep the bathroom safe for our elderly parents. Thankfully this can be done without a large expense.
Grab bars should be installed where ever support is needed. When proper support is not available, the elderly will use towel bars or the toilet paper holder, appliances not suitable for such use. Instead, grab bars should be securely placed both inside and outside the bathtub and within reach of the toilet.
As parents age they will find it increasingly difficult to stand up from a low toilet. If replacing the toilet with a higher model is not an option, then replacing the current seat with an elevated one complete with armrests will help them considerably. Another solution is to attach stand-alone armrests that attach to the floor and wall. These are very stable and won’t wobble as some toilet seat models tend to do. Bath and shower safety devices can be purchased at most home improvement stores or online.
If the bathtub has shower doors, removing these and replacing them with a shower curtain will allow more space to enter and exit the tub. It is also helpful to use non-slip mats or tape in the tub along with non-slip rugs. Additionally, replace the faucet handles with knobs for those with levers. Also place a nightlight in the bathroom. For added safety, make sure the bathroom doors open out. If your loved one were to collapse against the closed door inside the bathroom, then you or rescue personnel would have a hard time getting to them.
The rest of the house
Make sure the water heater temperature is adjusted to prevent accidental scalding. Replace the home thermostat with a backlit model with a large display. Remove raised thresholds in doorways. Put extra lighting switches in areas where they would be beneficial. The addition of extra outlets may be necessary if power cords on the floor are a tripping hazard. Replace doorknobs with levers.
In the kitchen, replace cabinet hardware if your parent has trouble grabbing them. The same should be done for kitchen faucets. Make sure the kitchen and rest of the house are free of plumbing leaks. Not only can these pose a serious slip hazard, but they may breed mold in the crawlspace or basement.
If you’re looking to add some additional senior safety to your home, enter your zip code above to find your local Handyman Matters location or call 866-FIX-MY-HOME.
Frank Nielson is a retired medical researcher who now spends his days writing and attempting to tie the perfect fly. Through this writing, he is keen on helping consumers find the best medical supplies at an affordable price.