How Do I Make My Aging Parents’ Home Safer?

Jo Singer, PT, CMC

Your home may be out to trip you up!

Every year, poor planning causes falls in the home, and the medical costs of falling run more than $30 billion a year in the United States. When seniors (people over age 65) fall, they are more likely to break a hip or leg, cause bleeding in the brain, and end up in a nursing home (Whiteman, et al.). Many falls can easily be prevented.

Let’s do a little detective work and see if you can help your elderly loved one avoid falls in their home. Grab a pen and paper!

Start at the front entrance

Photo by Christopher Harris on Unsplash

• Is the walk leading to the house in good repair, or does it have cracks or irregularities that could trip someone?
• Is the walk well lit?
• Do you have steps leading to the front door? If so, is there a sturdy handrail? Poor balance and arthritic joints can make even a few steps a challenge for older adults, so they need more support.
• Are the steps slippery if wet? Get some adhesive strips at the hardware store and put them on the steps.
• Do you have a door mat? Is it apt to slide? Is it thick? Both of those things could cause a trip and fall. Find a mat that is low profile and non-skid.

Inside your house

• Are there throw rugs on bare floors? Do they have non-skid backing or a good non-skid rug pad? If the edges of your throw rugs curl up, consider getting the double-sided tape that keeps them in place. A person with a shuffling gait may find those curled corners and fall.
• Looking around, are there clear paths to important rooms? Do you have to turn sideways to get through the living room to the couch, for example? Are there furniture legs that stick out near the walkway and pose potential tripping hazards? Anything that could cause a person to lose their balance is a hazard.
• Is the lighting adequate for safe navigation of your hallways? Vision often dims with age, so good lighting is important. Motion activated lights can be plugged in to hallway receptacles for night time wanderers, in addition to regular night lights in bathrooms.

Contact a Geriatric Counselor on our team in Nashville or Raleigh for an in-person evaluation of your elderly parents’ home.

Bathrooms

Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash

• Do the bath rugs have functional rubber backing, not a crumbly mess? If the rugs do not have secure non-skid backing, discard them.
• Older adults often have trouble getting up from a lower surface, so a raised toilet seat or one of the high toilets would relieve that struggle. A secure grab bar can be put into the wall by the toilet to assist with getting up and aid stability once up. Many toilet paper holders have been torn from walls as people attempt to use them for grab bars, so don’t take the chance!
• Is there a secure way to get in and out of the shower or tub? Grab bars next to the tub or shower, plus one inside, will help secure this transfer. Nothing like standing on one foot with no support, right? Maybe not. Ideally, showers should have low thresholds, but many people still have the tub to step over, so a grab bar is a must. Installing grab bars are more complicated than you might think and the last thing you want is for them to pull out of the wall, endangering your parents and leaving unsightly holes in the wall.

An Aging Life Care Specialist from LifeLinks saves you time and money by connecting you with a professional who understands how to safely install grab bars AND match the aesthetics of your beautiful bathroom!

• Is your tub slippery when wet? Get a rubber mat to put in the bottom of it.
• If anyone has problems standing for long, put in a shower seat so they can rest when needed. And don’t forget, hot water can make you tire faster. Shower chairs range from simple, to elaborate, to stylish, depending on the needs of your aging parent.

2nd Floor

• If you have stairs to a second floor, that handrail must be sturdy.
• Look for any worn spots in stair carpet, as they can catch a toe.
• Good lighting is essential on stairs and in hallways. You may need to get someone to put a stronger bulb in the overhead light and clean the light cover while they’re at it.

So that’s a quick tour of your house. How did you do?

At LifeLinks, our Aging Life Care Specialists/Geriatric Care Managers partner with families to walk through all kinds of challenges like these. We’re happy to provide a free consultation to see if we’d be a good match for your family. And we always begin our relationship with a meeting in the older adult’s home, so we can evaluate all of their holistic needs, including home safety.

Simple changes can keep you and your family safe. Don’t delay making them!

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