A Home is supposed to be a safe haven, your sanctuary, your castle, where your heart is. For many of our seniors it can be the farthest thing from it. Home accidents are more common than you think. Falls add up to 25% of all hospital admissions and 40% of nursing home admissions. 40% of those will never return to independent living, and 25% will die within a year (Statistics from Age Safe America). These are terrifying statistics! Safety is obviously extremely important for everyone, but especially for the seniors in our lives.
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While it is impossible to prevent every accident, we can take many precautions to keep our seniors as safe as possible. Let’s take a room to room tour and see what changes we can make to help the senior citizens in our lives. Below we will detail the specifics on how to keep our loved seniors safe in their homes room by room. Rooms to be broken down include:
- Garage/Laundry Room
We’re going to start our tour in the kitchen since this is the heart of most homes, and we all know how they love to feed us!
Let’s begin with installing a burner alert. These would be helpful for everyone, not just seniors, but let’s be honest, people of a certain age tend to be a bit more absentminded than others. These burner alerts are such a simple, yet very helpful thing to use. They are little discs that attach to your gas or electric stove knobs and remind you that the stove is on. They give both audio and visual cues that begin once you turn on the stove and repeat every 3, 9, 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes. A great way to prevent the burning of pans and eventually the whole house.
Next you want to remove anything they can slip on, like those cute little kitchen rugs. The corners tend to curl up and become a huge tripping hazard! Or the rug may just slip from right under your feet. Now we all know it may be hard to convince Mom to give up her adorable rug with the little chickens on it, so if that is the case, you can try getting some rug grippers. These attach to the corners of your rug and keep the corners from curling and the rug from slipping. You can also try this anti-slip tape, both products on Amazon. Lets make sure we get those rugs secured so we can sleep at night not worrying if Grammy tripped.
Inadequate lighting is a big problem for seniors. Installing some motion detected lights would help to prevent falls or worse. These lights come on as soon as they sense motion in the room. Now no matter what time of night they decide to get a midnight snack, they will not have to worry about falling over something they simply didn’t see.
Inaccessible cabinets are a “tall” issue in the kitchen. Be sure to store anything that gets frequent use in the lower cabinets so they don’t try to climb on a stool or chair to reach something they “need” right now! We all know that when Grandma wants something, she wants it now, not when you can get there to help her get it down from the top cabinet.
Appliances should not make the countertops so crowded they can’t keep track of the cords. Be sure not to have electrical cords hanging to the floor, or too close to the stove. These bands should be a big help in keeping the cords out of the way. Whenever possible, get appliances with an automatic shutoff option as well, you never know if someone just forgets to shut them off after use.
Keep all flammable cleaners and aerosol products OUT of the kitchen and away from the stove and other heat sources.
A red and blue indicator button, telling which is hot water and which is cold water, on the sink will help keep them from accidentally burning themselves with water that is too hot. Additionally, a faucet with one handle that simply goes left or right will be much easier than one they have to twist.
The kitchen is such a busy and dangerous place these days. Let’s help keep our seniors safe by applying as many of these safety features as possible.
With all of the water that runs in this room, slips and falls are very common. They now make rugs for the bathroom that essentially are slip free to place in front of the bathtub, shower, and sink areas. These gorilla grip bathtub and shower mats are a must! They are longer than the average tub mat and have hundreds of suction cups to keep the mat in place and you from slipping in the tub. It’s actually a better idea to have a walk in shower instead of a bathtub, this way you don’t have to worry about them trying to step over the tub to get in, falling, slipping and potentially breaking a bone.
Install a grab bar in the shower/bathtub to help them stand up, grab if they fall, or simply for balance. Another grab bar should be installed next to the toilet to help them lower themselves down to the toilet as well as to stand up.
Speaking of toilets, the average toilet sits pretty low for those with hip or knee issues. You can get one of these toilet risers to sit on top of the toilet. It adds five inches of height to the toilet and simply sits on top of the existing bowl, having slip free pads on the bottom to keep it in place. Another option is this riser that has the soft grip handles right on it to help them lower and rise from the toilet.
Some of our seniors have a difficult time standing in the shower, so a shower seat such as this one from Amazon, is a great idea. Not only will it help them stay balanced by being seated, it has grip handles on it to help them sit and stand when they’re ready. It has slip free rubber on the legs to keep it secure in the bathtub or shower as well.
Make sure to install a nightlight in every bathroom such as this one with dusk to dawn sensors. This way no one needs to remember to turn it on or off. Also, these toilet lights are really great! They light up the toilet bowl as soon as they sense movement and stay on for two minutes after the last movement. They take three AAA batteries and just hang on the edge of the toilet between the bowl and the seat. They also entertain the grand kids when they come to visit. Who doesn’t enjoy a light show in the bathroom?
Water temperature should be adjusted to get no hotter than 120 degree Fahrenheit to avoid burns, and be sure the hot and cold water spouts are clearly labeled.
Medicines should be put into pill organizers for several reasons. It will help them remember whether they have taken their medication that day as well as keep it organized and together. These are also easier to open and close than many of the medicine containers out there.
The bathroom can be a dangerous place for senior citizens, but we can help make it a safe place for them by following these helpful hints.
Bedrooms can be a sanctuary for some of us, so we need to be sure our seniors are safe in theirs. Let’s start again with rugs. Just as in the previous rooms, the best idea is to have no throw rugs at all, but if this isn’t possible, make them safe using rug grippers. Be sure the corners won’t roll up and the rugs don’t slip.
Keep the room free of clutter by having a place for everything. Put up some shelving low enough for them to reach without having to climb on a step or stool. Get rid of furniture that is old or worn, too much furniture makes the room hard to navigate. Get rid of clothing they no longer wear to help keep the closet and dresser organized.
Put nightlights in the bedroom in case they wake at night and want to get up. Many seniors have trouble sleeping, so this happens often.
Adjust the bed height so they don’t have to climb or fall into the bed. If their knees are above their hips while sitting on the edge of a bed, it’s too low. It’s too high if their legs don’t touch the floor. Adding or subtracting a box spring can raise bed height accordingly. They also make risers for the bed. Replace an old saggy mattress with a more firm mattress. This will help them get out of the bed easier and have more support. Place a telescoping grab bar that goes from floor to ceiling to help them get in and out of the bed.
If there is a round door knob on the bedroom door, or any door in the home, replace it with a lever knob. This is much easier for the seniors to open than having to grab and twist the round knobs.
Extension cords are a major hazard, so if you need to use them, be sure they are tucked safely behind furniture, or try using a power strip that can have several things plugged into it at once.
Seniors spend a bunch of time in the bedroom so let’s make sure its as safe as possible.
Hallway / Entryway
The hallway and entryway obviously can’t be avoided in senior proofing your home. No one realizes how much time is spent in these two small areas of the home.
Most of us have some sort of rug in the entryway or one running the length of the hallway. Be sure they are secure with the tips above. Keep the corners from rolling up, most importantly.
Install motion detection lighting in the entryway and hallway so the space lights up as soon as they enter it. Another option is LED rope lighting along a handrail or along the hallway. It comes in different colors and is low wattage. A third option would be to put in a clapper light. It’s a plug that makes the light turn on and off when you clap your hands. This would be a nice safety feature for any room in the home.
Keep the entryway organized and not too cluttered. Have a place available to put shoes, coats, etc. that will be easy to keep things together but out of the way.
The entryway can be a forgotten place to update the safety for seniors. Lets make sure we use these tips and ensure they are safe every time they enter or leave the home.
Garage / Laundry Room
The garage and laundry areas are important to look into for safety and comfort as well. The garage, especially, can tend to become a catch all and be extremely cluttered and dangerous for the elderly to maneuver in.
If the senior uses a wheelchair, walker, or other walking aid, it will be necessary to make sure you have five feet between the car and the wall of the garage in order for there to be enough room to get in and out of the vehicle.
If there are stairs going in and out of the garage, and there usually is at least one, be sure they can get up and down them safely with a walking aid. If a wheelchair is being used, then installing a ramp is a must.
Free the area of as much clutter as possible. Keep a nice clear walking area between the door to the home and the vehicle. The less opportunity for slipping or tripping the better. Too much clutter in the garage is also a fire hazard, especially if there are chemicals or barbecue supplies involved. Keep chemicals and tools safely put away.
Keep trash cans stored outside to prevent bug and rodent infestations. Getting them help to take these to curb on trash night would be a great idea to make sure they are safely getting rid of their garbage and not taking any unnecessary risks in the process.
In the laundry room, large detergent bottles can be too heavy for them to maneuver, so either buy in smaller bottles, or separate the detergents and cleaners into smaller, more manageable containers. Be sure the machines are easily accessible for them, not too low or too deep.
Even the smaller rooms in the home need to be accounted for when creating a safe space. These measures are a great way to enhance the safety in the home.
Be sure to have someone to help with snow and ice removal if they live in a colder climate. Get them a yard service that does year round landscaping and care. Put lighting outside that comes on using a timer. This will light up the outside so they will feel safer inside. No one likes looking out their window into total darkness. Put up motion sensor lights outside the garage or front door. This will be a deterrent for burglaries as well as give them a sense of security.
If your senior is a wanderer, put a fence around the yard. Large flower pots can serve as markers to help them remember where to go. Have a place outside where they can sit and enjoy quietly.
Install a doorbell with a flashing light if they are hard of hearing. Or put in a smart home doorbell such as the ring. It’s a video doorbell that lets you see, hear, and speak to the person at the door through a smartphone or Echo device. My Mom’s is on our account so every time her doorbell rings or someone comes up to her door I get an alert. Install a peephole in their front door as well, and tell them not to open the door if they don’t know the person. You can install a peephole camera so they don’t even have to go to the door to see who is there. The Ring doorbell does this as well.
Safety also needs to be addressed on the outside of the home. After doing the inside, let’s make sure we follow through and get the outside done using these tips as well.
Additional Safety Concerns
There are still other things to think about when taking care of our senior population.
Be sure there are enough smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the house and change the batteries twice a year. Doing this every time we change the time for daylight savings is a good way to remember.
Keep all emergency contact numbers in a place they can easily get them, on the refrigerator for instance. Put the contacts in their cell phone if they use one, or keep them programmed into their home phone for quick easy access.
Get them a fall alert necklace that has a button to push when they fall that will alert emergency systems and you. This will work even during power outages, so they will feel protected at all times.
Keep all doors, including the door to the garage, locked. Keep windows locked as well.
Safety is the number one factor we care about in this article, so if you have a great idea to enhance your loved ones safety, do it!
The most important thing we can do for our seniors is to stay in touch with them. Call them frequently, spend time with them. Loneliness and depression are so common with the senior community and, often, all they need is someone to show they care.
Let’s help keep our seniors around as long as possible by setting them up for success. Let them stay in their home as long as possible by making it their safe haven. Please help them address and install all the things that were discussed in this article. There is no such thing as being too safe when it is about our loved ones.