Over 30% of individuals over 65 fall at least once per year. Many of these falls have serious consequences, such as a hip fracture.
As elderly individuals age they can have difficulty with balance, strength, vision, hearing, memory as well as other issues that can put them at risk of being injured.
Their abilities will change over time so that one month they may be able to safely complete a task, and the next month they may have difficulty.
I recommend families check their parents home on a regular basis for issues described below.
The bathroom is a common area for falls but be sure to look at all areas of the home as it only takes one fall to change their lives significantly.
Preventing a fall or other incident can make your parents' lives safer and easier. It will also let you sleep a little better knowing that you've helped make their home safer for them
Home safety for elderly is very important for elderly living alone.
Can they easily access help in an emergency? If not, consider an Elderly Medical Alert system.
An alternate solution is to have a cordless phone available at all times. Home safety for elderly is about prevention and reducing risks. If an individual uses a walker or wheelchair, I often suggest carrying a cordless phone in a pouch attached to the device at all times in case they need to call for assistance.
Are there stairs at the entrance? Can the senior safely use the stairs? Is there a sturdy railing? Would a ramp be more appropriate (especially for individuals using a wheelchair)? Depending on the situation, an alternate home safety for elderly solution is a porch lift or stair glide.
Another important aspect of home safety for elderly is eliminating tripping hazards. Does the senior have scatter rugs or electric cords on the floor? Is the environment cluttered? Is there more than one flooring type? Is there a smooth transition between flooring?
The ideal home environment will be free of tripping hazards and has an open floor plan so the senior can easily move around with a walker or wheelchair.
Is there adequate lighting? Consider installing brighter lights and night lights for individuals who have to get up in the middle of the night.
Does the senior have difficulty getting in and out of chairs? Are they too low? Cushions can be added to raise the seat height. Alternatively, platforms can be built or furniture risers can be installed to raise the seat to a more appropriate height.
Does the individual use mobility aids? Can they easily negotiate around furniture and through doorways and hallways? The ideal home will be accessible and have plenty of room for the individual to move around using a walker or wheelchair.
Is the individual driving? If not, are they able to safely access transportation? Most communities have a public transit system and some have special transportation services for seniors. Others rely on friends and family for assistance. If seniors are using public transportation, is it close by and is there a safe route to walk or wheel to the access point?
Is there evidence of burns or fires? If so, the individual may benefit from a formal assessment by a health care professional as to their ability to safely live at home.
Are the buttons and controls for the microwave and other appliances easy to read? Do the appliances automatically shut off after a certain amount of time? This is a helpful home safety for elderly feature for those with memory difficulties.
Are items within safe reach for seniors? Are items clean and properly stored? A change in cleanliness can be an indication of decreased endurance, memory or a variety of other issues. Talk to your parents about this change and consult a health care professional if needed.
Are there signs of fire or burns? Are there smoke detectors and do they work? Is there a carbon monoxide detector and is it working properly?
Does the senior use an electric blanket and does it have an automatic shut off feature?
Does the senior have a fire emergency plan and exit strategy?
Are they physically able to leave the building, especially without the use of elevators?
Is their judgement intact so that they can recognize the problem and make the most appropriate response. For example, if they see smoke coming under their door do they know to call for help and to exit the building?
For more information: Elderly Fire Safety
Can the senior prepare meals and hot drinks safely? Are they able to carry drinks and meals to the table or regular eating area?
Some individuals find it difficult to cook meals everyday so they have meals delivered. Most cities have programs such as meals on wheels.
Is the senior able to do their own shopping? Some local businesses and grocery stores deliver.
Can the senior manage their finances independently? An often forgotten aspect of home safety for seniors, is their ability to manage their finances and be protected from financial abuse. There are services available to assist seniors in managing bill payments and other financial matters.
Are they able to clean and do laundry? Some individuals have housecleaning and laundry completed once a week a local service provider.
One of the most important aspects of home safety for elderly is bathroom safety. The combination of water, soap and hard surfaces requires careful attention. Is the senior able to get into and out of bathtub safely?
There are a wide variety of grab bars and bathtub rails to assist seniors and ensure they are safe. Does the bath/shower floor have a non-skid mat?
Does the older adult have difficulty getting on and off the toilet? They may benefit from a raised toilet seat or toilet safety frame.
For more information: Bathroom Products for the Elderly
Are the water faucets and door handles easy for seniors to open and close? Lever style handles are easier and safer for seniors to use.
A good home safety for elderly tip is to make sure the temperature of the hot water is not too hot.
Does the older adult have difficulty getting dressed or grooming? There are a variety of dressing and grooming aids that enable older adults to safely complete personal care activities independently.
For more information: Equipment for Seniors.
Some individuals may benefit from having a home support worker or personal care assistant help them with their morning routine (dressing, grooming, bathing and toileting).
Is the senior managing their medication safely? Are they taking the right medication at the right time? Are the medications stored properly?
An important aspect of home safety for elderly is the clients ability to properly manage medication. They are at an increased risk for falls if they are not properly managing their medications.
Can they get to the pharmacy for refills? Some pharmacies deliver if the older adult is not able to go to the pharmacy in person.
Would the senior benefit from a medication reminder box or blister packets? Most pharmacies can advise their customers on available options.
For more information: Elderly Medication
Can the older adult use the telephone? Do they have difficulty reading the numbers? Does the senior have any difficulty with their speech, hearing or vision?
There are phones designed for specifically for older adults. Are emergency numbers posted and readable?
A good home safety for elderly tip is to have a list of important phone numbers by the phone. Make sure they are easy to see and in large print.
For more information: Phones for Elderly
Does the elderly individual enjoy watching television? Are they able to see and hear the TV? There are products available that can address both of these issues. Contact a local electronic or medical supply store for more information.
Does the senior have a history of wandering away from home? If so, register them with a wandering person's registry. Most local police or public health departments maintain this type of registry in case they find someone who is lost or suspected of wandering.
Individuals who have a history of wandering should have a medic alert card or carry card with their personal information and emergency contact information.
Depending on the severity of the individuals wandering issue, consider an alarm system that would alert caregivers that the individual has opened a door or window.
Notify neighbours of the situation as they may be able to assist in ensuring the senior does not walk away from the house. Home safety for elderly is also about ensuring proper supports and neighbours are an excellent support system.
Does the individual have memory difficulties? Home safety for elderly is especially important for seniors with memory or other cognitive issues.
There are a variety of products that assist seniors in remembering times, dates and events. Timers to remind individuals when cooking is a great safety idea.
Return to Caring for Aging Parents