Home is meant to be a place of comfort, security, and safety. That last word is vital to aging at home: safety.
According to the AARP, 87% of people over 65 want to stay in their home as they age. However, the National Institute on Aging says many aging adults are worried about their safety at home. How would you go about making sure that your loved one is safe at home? The needs of your loved one can change as they age, and their home space does need to change with them.
It can feel impossible to know what you need to change. You might not know what the risks are for your loved one. Once you know what is unsafe, it can be hard to figure out how to change it. You can also run into resistance to care from your older loved one who wants things to stay the same.
There are a few basic steps you can take to improve the safety of your loved one at home. You don’t have to conquer this task alone; there are professionals that can help you. Home Care Assistance offers a home tour and evaluation that has been designed to:
- Allow your loved one the option of aging in place if they choose to
- Discover what could be a hazard in the home
- Optimize the home so that your loved one’s changing needs are met
Four Tips to Creating a Safe Environment
As you start to look at how to set up your loved one’s home, you will need to consider four aspects. At Home Care Assistance, these are categorized as safety, function, orientation, and comfort. We’ll go through each of these below and also get you started with suggestions on what hazards to look for in each room.
- Remove the dangers. You will want to look for things in the house that are dangerous and remove anything to decrease fall risk. This could include items like:
- Loose rugs or dangling cords
- Improperly used electrical appliances such as over-packed outlets or space heaters
- Electric blankets
- Clutter on the ground
- Change to make it work. Homes need to be liveable and may require remodeling to remain safe as we age. Changes may need to be made to allow your loved one to complete their daily activities safely. This includes eating, toileting, bathing, dressing, and medication management. Some changes might include:
- Bathroom grab bars
- Wheelchair ramps
- Assistive cutlery
- Enjoy the way the home looks. An important part of home life is being able to enjoy how your home looks and feels. Your loved one wants their home to be comfortable, not perfect. Some tips to consider when increasing the enjoyment of their home is to:
- Limit the amount of clutter or unnecessary objects that are out in the living space
- Make it easy to find the everyday items that they need
- Keep the pathways between bedroom, bathroom and kitchen clear
- Improve the lighting in commonly used areas and hallways, motion sensor lights can be helpfu
- Maintain comfort. The thought of aging in place often means being surrounded by the things your loved one values. They may need to know that their belongings and their privacy will be respected. You can help by:
- Making sure that they have a personal space that is private to them
- Figuring out what is important and what they want to be able to see, touch and hold
- Keeping noise levels at an acceptable level
With these four thoughts in mind, you can do a physical or mental walkthrough of your loved one’s house and start to identify what may need to change in each area.
Home Safety Checklist
Keep questions like these, based on Home Care Assistance’s home assessment checklist, in mind when reviewing your loved one’s safety at home:
- Is the common outdoor entry clear, clutter-free, and easy to enter?
- Is there proper and easy-to-use lighting?
- Is the pathway surface safe?
- Is the room overly full of furniture?
- Are there floor lamps that could be unsteady?
- Do you see stacks of books, magazines, blankets, rugs on the floor?
- Do the lights work well? Are light switches easy to find?
- Are they able to easily do their favorite activities?
- Is there a safe place to sit?
- Are there glass tabletops or heavy figurines?
- Is there a clear area for eating?
- Are they able to easily get clean glasses, utensils, and dishes?
- Do they have a quick way to clean up spills or dropped food?
- Can they do what they need to do in the kitchen?
- Do they have easy access to hand soap and clean towels?
- Are they able to reach items safely?
- Do appliances work?
- How hot is the water temperature?
- Is there expired food in the fridge?
- Are counters and cooking surfaces clean and clear?
- Are they able to find or prepare foods that meet their nutritional needs?
- Is the bedroom comfortable in privacy, light, and temperature?
- Are they able to get in and out of bed safely?
- Do they have a toilet that is easy to access from the bedroom?
- Do they have a night light?
- How would they call for help if there was an emergency?
- Are they able to find their personal items in closets and dressers?
- Is there a safe bath mat that is being used?
- Is the trash bin easy to use?
- How high is the step into the shower or tub?
- Is there a place to sit in the tub or shower?
- Are bath/shower products easy to reach?
- Does the water drain well?
- Are there grab bars by the tub, shower, and toilet?
- How hot is the water temperature?
- Is the toilet the right height?
- Is the toilet seat stable?
- Are the hallways clear of tripping hazards?
- Is it easy to find light switches on either end of the hallway?
- Is there adequate lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs?
- Are the stairs secure? Do you see loose boards or carpeting?
- Is the railing secure?
- Are there objects placed at the top of the stairs?
As you review the home, it can feel overwhelming to know where to start. Start with where your loved one spends the most time and ask them what they would need to be changed to feel safer.
Setting up your loved one’s home for safety is key to meeting their needs in the home. Remember that you don’t have to do this alone. Home Care Assistance can assist you with knowing what needs to change and how to start those changes.