7 Tips To Make Your Home A Safer Place To Age In Place
Bay Alarm Medical
October 28, 2019
More than three-quarters of adults age 50 and over surveyed by AARP in 2018 want to stay in their homes as they age. But the average American home is a dangerous place! It has knives, fire hazards, and plenty of fall hazards. In fact, falls are one of the most common reasons for ER visits, and 70% of those patients are younger than 65. However, falls in older people can be much more serious and life threatening.
Here are 7 easy home modifications that will help keep seniors safer and healthier as they age in place.
1. Bathroom Safety for Seniors
For seniors, the bathroom can be the most dangerous place in the entire house. It’s all too easy to slip on wet tile, a dropped bar of soap, or the throw rug in front of the sink.
- Install grab bars: Place handholds and grab bars in strategic places near the tub/shower and toilet.
- Reorganize the contents: Make sure that frequently used items like soap, shampoo, towels, etc. are within easy reach.
- Use non-slip surfaces: Adhesive non-slip decals are affordable and easy to install. Place them inside the tub/shower as well as the flooring outside that area.
- Consider a shower chair: These come in all types of configurations and range in price from about $50 for a basic chair attached by suction cups to custom designs that cost thousands.
2. Improve Lighting
Our eyes change as the age – for the worse. Older eyes don’t take in as much light, distort colors, and take longer to focus and adapt to lighting changes. At age 65, people need twice as much light to see as well as they did at age 20.
Prioritize lighting improvements in these areas:
- Stairs: Increase lighting at the top of the stairs, in particular, to reduce the chance of a severe fall. Plug-in motion sensor lights are inexpensive and light the stair area automatically.
- Bathroom: Seniors often have to get up several times at night, but many are reluctant to turn on bright lights because that can make it harder to fall back asleep. Install one or more nightlights in the bathroom and bedroom area.
- Kitchen: Make sure food preparation areas are well-lit to reduce the chance of cuts or punctures from knives or other implements.
- Outdoor lighting: Improved outdoor lighting increases safety and security. Solar motion senor lights are easy to install along walkways and near entrances – and they don’t increase utility costs.
3. Create Clear Traffic Paths & Reduce Clutter
If you’re trying to help your parents downsize their possessions, home safety can be an important incentive. Clutter, by its very nature, increases the risk of trips and injuries from falls. You may need to rearrange the furniture in some rooms, or remove some pieces entirely. Chairs with wheels (like office chairs) represent a particular fall hazard, especially if they’re rolling on a bare floor.
There’s a difference between hoarding and clutter. Many seniors have stacks of “stuff” laying about the house because physical limitations make it harder for them to clean and move unwanted items to the trash or recycle bins. Consider enlisting the help of a cleaning service several times a month.
4. Secure Loose Rugs, or Remove Them
A loose throw rug is a fall waiting to happen. A study conducted in 2013 found that almost 40,000 people aged 65 and over went to the ER for treatment after suffering a rug or carpet-related fall.
“Frequent fall injuries occurred at the transition between carpet/rug and non-carpet/rug, on wet carpets or rugs, and while hurrying to the bathroom.”
- Secure rugs with adhesive tape or non-skid backing.
- Check for curled carpet edges and repair them.
- Consider increasing lighting in “transition areas” between carpet/tile/wood floors, etc.
5. Add Safety Options to Indoor and Outdoor Steps
Indoor staircases are a fall hazard, but they’re usually equipped with handrails. That’s usually not the case when there’s just a single step, like into a sunken living room. There are three levels of safety, depending on your visual and physical condition:
- Use contrast. If the flooring above and below the step is the same, place a piece of contrasting tape along the edge of the step. That visual cue will remind you to take extra care.
- Install a handrail.
- Install a ramp. This is the best long-term solution, because it accommodates everyone. You can even use a removable ramp, as long as it’s firmly affixed to the floor. Make sure it’s covered in a non-slip material.
Everyone should take care with outdoor steps. Not only are they a fall hazard to people of all ages, but also a potential liability issue if someone is injured on your property.
- Have a secure handrail on all outdoor steps.
- Place nonskid tape on each step for extra traction.
- Consider an outdoor snowmelt mat if you live in an area with frequent snow and ice.
- Place a ramp outside your most frequently used entrance, and use all the safety features mentioned above.
6. Get a Home Medical Alert
You’ve probably noticed a common thread in this article: falls are dangerous and there are many ways to fall inside (or outside) the home. Delaying care can have serious consequences:
- Fractures need to be treated quickly to avoid additional tissue damage from swelling
- Head and/or traumatic brain injuries can cause strokes or bleeding inside the skull.
- Anti-coagulant drugs increase the risk of internal bleeding.
But after a serious fall, what if you’re unconscious or physically unable to get up and call for help? A DeKalb County, GA woman was saved by her mail carrier, who arrived in the nick of time. Not everyone is that lucky. That’s why you need the extra protection a medical alert button provides.
When the system detects a fall, our trained operators will dispatch first responders. They receive important information about your medical history while in route so they can provide treatment even if you’re unable to respond to questions.
7. Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are inexpensive, yet vital safety features in the home. Three out of five home fire deaths occur in residences without working smoke detectors. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer with no odor or color. It’s responsible for over 400 deaths each year, and over 70,000 people are treated for expose.
The faster you get out of the house during a fire, the more likely you are to survive, says a study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Older people are more likely to die in a house fire, even though they make up a smaller segment of the population.
“Our findings indicate that frailty, especially in elderly populations, hinders the ability to escape and should be recognized as a key factor in home fire deaths,” he said. “Therefore, measures to overcome this population-specific vulnerability, such as automatic sprinklers in bedrooms, may help reduce the number of fatalities.”
It’s not possible to stop the effect of aging, but it is possible to modify your surroundings to help you or a loved one cope with declining senses like sight and hearing and mobility problems.