There is plenty of talk about child-proofing, but the need to elder-proof your home (or theirs!) may come as a surprise to some.
Still, as our elderly loved ones become less stable, experience memory problems, or become ill or frail, we need to put precautions in place to prevent them from being hurt.
It’s hard to watch someone who once picked us up to kiss away our tears become older and more unstable on their feet. However, as a person ages, we often have no choice but to acknowledge that their body isn’t as agile as it once was.
Whether you are growing older and need to take special precautions or have an elderly loved one, preventing falls by elder-proofing dangerous areas should be a top priority.
As our body ages, we often find that we are more unstable on our feet than when we were young. In addition to being less stable, our bones tend to be more fragile with age.
This is not a big issue, but it does mean you need to prepare in advance for safety.
Sometimes, even sitting down in a chair, getting into or out of bed, or getting up from the dinner table can lead to a fall.
Porch-steps or stairs leading up to a second floor or down to a basement can be a considerable danger to the elderly.
A bathroom is a dangerous place in our homes for people of all ages, but senior citizens are most at risk for injuries. Statistically, every 11 seconds, a person falls and needs to be taken to the emergency room for help. With all its wet, slippery surfaces, sharp corners, and hard-surfaced floors, the bathroom is exceptionally dangerous for the elderly. A full 80% of falls happen in the bathroom, according to NewsUSA, quoting a National Institute on aging.
According to Medical Alert Advice, one in three adults has trouble getting into and out of the bathtub.
In most cases (about 95%), the result of a fall is a broken hip, but it can be more severe or even fatal.
Uneven or hard floors, low lighting, sharp corners, and hot surfaces (such as a forgotten stove top burner or a radiator) can all be a danger to the elderly.
Remove wheels and place non-slip pads on the feet of chairs and bed frames. Likewise, make sure the bed is not too high and that there is a non-slip floor mat or carpet next to the bed when the room has hardwood floors or tile.
To avoid slipping on, or falling down, stairs, place non-slip traction pads on each step, attach hand railings to the wall, and if at all possible, eliminate the need for your senior loved one to use the stairs at all.
You will want to put grab bars around the tub, toilet, and shower area in the bathroom. These grab bars will give stability where it is needed the most. Add a shower bench if standing up is difficult for your loved one.
Non-skid floor-mats inside and outside of the shower or tub area can further increase elder-proof safety; double-check to make sure the mat is backed with rubber or some other kind of non-skid material.
Night lights in the bathroom, bedroom, and along the hallways will help your loved ones stay safe during the night if they need to go to the bathroom. A low-level nightlight will also help ensure that they have an easier time falling back to sleep afterward because it’s not too bright.
Finally, make sure there is sufficient, bright lighting throughout the house, so your loved one doesn’t get hurt because their eyesight isn’t what it used to be.
The kitchen, where fire/heat, water, and ice are in abundant supply, can be a threat to you or your older loved one. Independence is important even in old age; elder-proofing minimizes the risk for injuries for people whose balance or coordination has become unstable.
Cooking means grease, grime, and fire-danger. Elder-proof the floors with non-slip floor mats at the sink or stove. Elder -roofing a kitchen stove is difficult because of the risk of a burn or kitchen fire.
Choose an electric stove instead of a gas stove; at least then, the burner will show up as on or radiate enough heat to remind the unwary or distracted. An induction stovetop may be the best choice because it heats up and cools down quickly.
There are also products, such as fireAngel StoveGuard, that will sound an alert if the burners are left on accidentally. An automatic fire extinguisher installed under the range hood is another way to stop an accidental fire.
Encourage the use of the microwave if at all possible. Look for large number displays and one that is simple to operate. Remind your loved one to avoid the use of metal containers or aluminum foil.
The refrigerator and freezer are other important considerations when elder-proofing a kitchen. Consider getting a separate refrigerator and freezer. The advantage is that smaller units can be placed at countertop height for easier access. Avoid overloading them with food; that will prevent spills and make the food more accessible.
Invest in auto-off appliances for the coffeemaker or tea kettle. That will eliminate the need to remember to switch them off.
Try to arrange the work areas, cupboards, and drawers to be clutter-free, ensuring that everything is easily reached without the need to move items to get others. Instead of pots and pans in a lower cupboard, move them to an over-the-counter cabinet where they can be clearly seen and avoid stacking them.
Label drawers and cupboards with contents to help remind your loved one where things are, especially after a major reorganization. Move knives to a knife-block to eliminate reaching for a knife in the drawer. Keep countertops clear of clutter.
Install pullout trays in the cupboards so those food items, dishware, and small appliances are easy to access and avoid overreaching or bending down to get something, which could lead to a fall.
To age in place, take steps now to elder-proof your home. It will save confusion over changes later in life. Similarly, the sooner you take steps to protect your aged loved one, the safer they’ll be for accidents in the home.