The home is where we spend most of our time. It’s the place where we can relax and feel safe. But for seniors, the home can pose some serious danger. Especially if they live alone.
As you get older, it’s commonplace that your eyesight dims, bones get weaker, and reflexes get slower. On top of this, old age also comes with the added risk of memory loss, hearing impairment, and other illnesses such as arthritis. It’s important to protect seniors from injuries caused by these problems by senior-proofing the house.
Senior-proofing the house can involve changing out old appliances, injury-proofing the furniture, and some home renovation work. Of course, this can be expensive, and you or your family may not have enough spare money lying about to finance this renovation.
But the cost of not senior-proofing the house is quite high as well. However, thankfully, you don’t have to choose. There is help out there for those who want to ensure the safety of their elderly loved ones. For example, one option is to take out a reverse mortgage loan and use it to finance home renovations.
A reverse mortgage loan allows you to borrow against the equity of your house. Of course, there’s more to it than just that, and you should check out a reverse mortgage FAQ page to see if that’s the right path for you and your family. There are other options out there too—the bottom line is that you should not compromise safety to save money.
If you’ve decided to go ahead with the renovation, then here’s what you need to know about injury-proofing your seniors’ homes.
Safeguarding Seniors at Home
The first rule of injury-proofing seniors’ homes is to provide handrails for ease of navigation at all staircases. It’s usually difficult for the elderly to go up and down the stairs, and if they absolutely must do so then handrails are a saving grace. Make sure these handrails can support the weight of the elderly and provide a good grip. You can also help them navigate staircases better by carpeting the stairs to provide ample friction and prevent slipping accidents.
Another way to make homes senior-friendly is to widen doors. The standard door is often too small to accommodate seniors’ walkers or wheelchairs. So if your loved one uses one of these apparatus’ to get around, then it’s probably a good idea to make the doors wide enough to accommodate them.
The kitchen is also a high-risk zone. One of the top injuries sustained by the elderly is burns obtained while cooking. This is especially pertinent for those elderly who have memory problems, and who may forget to turn off the stove. You can protect them from these kinds of accidents by purchasing kitchen appliances that will switch themselves off automatically after use, or switching out gas stoves for the safer electric induction stoves.
Burns can also be sustained during showers because of the high automatic water heating setting. You can prevent the risk of seniors burning their fingers or skin while bathing by lowering the water heater temperature setting to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other important bathroom safety features include handrails and an elevated toilet seat. Handrails in the shower and next to the toilet are very important as the slippery, wet floors make the chances of falling very high. An elevated toilet seat, on the other hand, will allow the senior to comfortably use the toilet without having to bend too much and tax their knees.
Preventing Tripping Hazards
Another way to protect your elderly relative is to install motion-sensitive lighting. A lot of the time, it’s a lack of vision that causes elders to trip and fall. Coupled with their declining vision, installing proper lighting is very important to prevent such mishaps from happening. Motion-sensitive lighting has the added bonus of switching on automatically when the elder steps into a room so that they don’t have to struggle to search for the light switch.
But even with good lighting, elders can still trip over furniture or decorative pieces. Rugs are one of the more dangerous tripping hazards, especially for elders who may not be able to see the curled edges of the rug clearly. If you don’t want to leave the floor bare, you can substitute rugs with carpets which provide more friction and which reduce the risk of falling.
Also make sure to cover the sharp edges of any furniture, so that in the event of a fall, there is minimal chance of the senior sustaining serious head traumas or injuries. This can be done using soft materials such as foam, or by using rubber corner guards which should be available at your local hypermarket.
It’s not easy to pre-empt all sorts of trouble and to safeguard against these. But some misfortunes can be avoided with proper care and forethought, and elder care happens to be one of these. Of course, this list isn’t the end all be all. There are many more elder home-proofing tips out there that can help you protect your beloved elderly relatives as best as possible. But these tips can give you a good idea of where to start, and by speaking to your parents or grandparents you can figure out their unique needs and cater to these.