As we get older, our agility, reflexes, and eyesight diminish and even familiar surroundings can pose dangers if we do not take care to reduce hazards. Falls are a leading cause of injury and death for seniors, and many of these incidents occur in seniors’ own homes. Elder caregivers can help keep their seniors safe and healthy by safety-proofing their homes.
Being able to continue living in their homes is a big advantage for seniors. Seniors are happier living in their own residences, taking comfort from their familiar surroundings and the home they’ve spent a lifetime building. This satisfaction yields tangible mental and physical health benefits as these seniors are more likely to be active and engaged in life.
There is also a major financial benefit in remaining at home, as residing in nursing homes or assisted living facilities costs more than $50,000 per year on average, according to AARP.
Elder care advocates and government agencies are prioritizing keeping seniors at home for as long as possible, and a whole home health care industry has developed to help seniors meet their daily living tasks. Home caregivers help seniors with tasks such as cooking and cleaning and also may provide transportation to physician’s appointments and aid seniors with tasks such as managing medications and monitoring vital signs such as blood pressure.
Falls Major Cause of Senior Injury
Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of injury requiring hospitalization among older adults. About a quarter of all men and women age 65 and older in the U.S. will suffer a fall this year. Because seniors’ bones are weaker and their bodies take more time to heal than younger adults, falls can have serious consequences for seniors.
Even if falls are non-fatal, they can have huge impacts on seniors’ quality of life. For example, should a senior fall and break his or her hip, that senior could face a long recovery time and lose the ability to live independently.
According to the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, about 55 percent of all seniors’ fall injuries occur in their homes. Another 23 percent happened in locations outside, but near the house such as decks and steps. Bedrooms and living rooms appear to be the most hazardous areas of the home, with 61 percent of in-house falls happening in those areas.
Home caregivers can protect their seniors and help ensure they can remain in their homes by taking steps to eliminate fall hazards. Some safety-proofing for senior homes includes:
- Remove cords from trafficked areas – Extension cords and other electrical cords can cause seniors to trip and fall. Caregivers should go from room to room in their senior’s home and relocate any cords that may pose a fall hazard.
- Equip hallways and bathrooms with night lights – Reduced visibility at night can make seniors more likely to fall. To mitigate this hazard, elder caregivers should place night lights in areas such as bathrooms or hallways where seniors may travel at night. Caregivers should choose night lights that activate automatically in low light conditions. Adding lamps that turn on and off by touch to bedside tables is also an excellent idea, as is installing stair lights for two-storey or split-level homes.
- Remove or secure area rugs – Loose area rugs can cause seniors to slip and fall. To reduce fall risk, remove area rugs from the home or use adhesive products to secure the rug firmly to the floor.
- Install proper handrails – For areas of the home where stairs or steps are present, install handrails to help seniors keep their balance. Caregivers should regularly inspect handrails to ensure they are securely attached to the wall, as unsecured handrails may cause a fall.
- Take care of wet floors immediately – Wet floors are a major tripping hazard for seniors. Clean up any spills immediately and also be sure to only use non-skid wax on waxed floors. Also be sure to inform seniors of any spills or other wetness on their floors.
- Be wary of pets – Pets provide companionship and joy for seniors, but they can also pose a fall hazard. Restricting pets to certain areas of the house or attaching a bell to their collar to alert seniors to their presence can help reduce fall risk.
- Install non-slip items in bathrooms – Bathrooms are a frequent site of falls for seniors. Slippery tile floors, wet conditions, and slick bathtubs can make it easy for seniors to fall. Caregivers can reduce fall risk in bathrooms by putting non-slip strips or a rubber mat on bathtub floors and by applying a non-slip coating to floors. Grab bars for showers and in the area of the toilet can also help seniors avoid falls.
Non-Fall Related Safety Proofing
Falls aren’t the only risk seniors face at home. Seniors may also be injured by burns, electrical shock, falling objects, and other threats. Caregivers should also take these steps for non-fall related sources of potential injury:
- Many seniors love to cook, but memory and agility issues may make this activity hazardous for them. Caregivers can reduce risks in the kitchen by adding temperature-controlled cookware to the kitchen, as well as systems that automatically turn off stoves and ovens. Caregivers may also need to convince seniors to cook only when a caregiver or family member is nearby to assist. Adding lightweight plates to the kitchen may also help prevent injuries.
- Electrical shock can cause injury and even death to seniors. Caregivers should make sure devices are correctly plugged into electrical outlets and that power strips and extension cords are in good condition and are used properly.
- Seniors may not have the strength and agility to safely reach objects on high shelves. They may become injured if they try to retrieve something from a high shelf or cabinet and that object falls on them. Caregivers can improve safety by relocating items to lower cabinets and only storing items that have a low likelihood of causing injury, such as towels or toilet paper, in high cabinets or on high shelves.
- Caregivers can also reduce seniors’ risk of injury by encouraging them to be mindful of their safety. Regular conversations about safe practices can help reinforce the importance of safety and remind seniors of how to avoid hazards. Caregivers must take care not to sound nagging or patronizing, but conversations about safety can be a great help.
- Communications can be a challenge for senior safety, especially for seniors who live alone. Emergency alert systems seniors can use to summon paramedics in the event of a fall or other medical emergency can be real lifesavers. These wearable devices ensure that seniors always have a lifeline in case of an emergency and are an excellent investment.
About 90 percent of seniors polled by AARP said they want to stay in their own homes as they age. Safety modifications to seniors’ homes will allow them to retain their independence without compromising their safety. Home caregivers can help the children and grandchildren of older adults provide a safe environment for their loved ones that allows them to keep their homes and their autonomy. Finding qualified, professional caregivers to provide this aid is vital to senior safety.
Home Care Assistance San Antonio provides high-quality non-medical care and companionship for seniors, allowing them to continue enjoying the comfort of their homes. Home Care Assistance San Antonio’s trained and experienced caregivers are available on an hourly or live-in basis. Contact the company today to find an option that works for you or a loved one.