As your loved ones age, their diminished physical dexterity often means things around the home that they may have lived with for years suddenly present a hazard. With more elders living independently and opting for home care services or in-home disability care, those who need a frame, stick or wheelchair to get around will find navigating the average able-bodied home difficult without modifications.
However, with a few affordable and straightforward adjustments, you can ensure their environment is safer and more accommodating to their needs. Here's a quick guide to what you can do to make a home more liveable:
- Start with a complete assessment of the house. Grab a paper and pen and go through each room one by one. It’s best to do this during various times of the day so you can take note of any hazards that might present in the evening or night time. Take particular notice of the three most dangerous areas – the bedroom, living room and hallway. How can you reduce floor clutter? Can you secure things like electrical cords and rugs, so they don't pose a threat? Are all traffic paths clear? What about thresholds – are they flush to the floor?
- Use contrasting colours. Inadvertent falls can be serious – in fact falls are the leading cause of accidental death in the home for seniors. Consider removing unnecessary furniture and selecting area rugs in a contrasting colour to the carpet or floor to provide clear lines of sight. If a rug curls or wrinkles, replace it. Don’t forget to add non-slip mats to reduce the risk of tripping.
- Safety in the bathroom. Water on tiles or lino can be deadly – rubber matting can help. It’s easy to add grab bars in the shower, bath and toilet. Add a plastic chair in the shower or install a frameless shower, so there's no chance of tripping. While you're at it, check the temperature on your water heater – scalding accidents are a worry in the elderly.
- Increase light sources. Low light can play havoc with ageing eyesight – people in their 80s need three times more light than teenagers. Make sure thoroughfares are well lit to help your loved one get around at night. Don’t forget sensor lights outdoors. You could even add reflective strips in places where you think problems may occur – such as stairs.
- Hardwire in smoke alarms. Battery smoke alarms tend to go off at inopportune times. You don't want your loved one tempted to get on a step ladder to stop a screaming siren! Hardwired models last longer – but don’t forget to check them regularly, too.
- Reorganise kitchen cupboards. Speaking of step ladders, rethink kitchen storage to move all everyday items within easy reach. If possible, remove everything from high cabinets to remove any temptation of climbing on a chair to grab something.
- Safer medicine storage. If you have two elder parents living in the same home taking different medicines, avoid potentially toxic mix-ups by giving them their own medicine cabinets.
- Keep emergency numbers close at hand. Write a list of common emergency contact numbers in large print near any telephone handset, alongside GP and specialists’ contact details.
With a little forethought and planning, you can minimise the environmental risks for your loved one. If you’re unsure about what needs to be done, get a professional’s advice. Call us today.