All new parents know that as soon as their baby starts crawling, walking, and getting to know the surrounding space, there is a need for baby-proofing the house to prevent injuries and accidents. However, not many of us know that much when it comes to adapting the house to seniors.
There are many things that come with age; some of them are pleasant, such as wisdom, and others are unpleasant, such as loss of coordination and decline of health. The unpleasant changes carry the risk of mishaps and harms. So, if you are planning on bringing an elderly family member to live with you or adjusting their home for aging in place, here are some things you can do to ensure they are comfortable and safe from injury.
Address the problem of accessibility
Getting in and outside the house, as well as moving around, can prove to be troublesome if your elderly family member needs a wheelchair or a walker to move. Even if they can walk independently, they should be provided with easy access to the parts of the house they are using, especially if they have arthritis or simply get tired easily.
These issues can be resolved by installing raps leading to the access points (front or side door). Furthermore, there is an option of getting a stair-climbing wheelchair or installing stair rails or a stairlift.
Either way, your upgrades will be tailored to their specific needs. If they’re using a wheelchair, you’ll need to widen the doorways throughout the house to allow the wheelchair to go through easily. If they have arthritis, the door handles need to be changed from knobs to levers.
After the age of sixty-five, the probability of falls increases significantly. In fact, there is a devastating statistic saying that once every eleven seconds an elderly person ends up in the emergency room because of a fall. To make things even worse, seniors have many more difficulties in recovering from a fall, and the consequences can permanently alter their lifestyle or even jeopardize their very lives.
That’s why it is paramount to think about the risks and fall-prevention systems you can introduce into your home. The first place to pay attention to is the bathroom, as this is typically the most hazardous area. Make it fall-proof with anti-slip mats, shower seats, elevated toilet seats, and grab bars alongside the bathtub (shower) and the toilet. Rugs around the house can pose a tripping hazard, so consider removing them or installing wall-to-wall carpeting.
Keep everything clean and on one floor
This can prove to be a tricky one, but for your loved one’s safety and comfort, it would be best to keep everything they need, including the bathroom, kitchen, dining room, and their bedroom on the first floor. This way, you will not be forced to spend a lot of money on installing stair rails or a stairlift.
Also, it would be useful to keep the things they need in the kitchen and the bathroom within reach so that they don’t have to climb a stool or stretch their body to grab them. Remember that clutter can be a great risk for tripping and moving around with a wheelchair, so try to remove any furniture piece you do not need, and keep away the cords and cables. Lastly, make sure that their bed and the living room couch are of the appropriate height for them to sit down and get up with minimum effort.
Take care of the lighting
This is something we rarely think about when senior-proofing the home, and that’s certainly a mistake. Lights are immensely important because, after all, eyesight deteriorates with age, and that’s where all kinds of tripping risks come in. Layered lighting can provide adequate vision throughout the house, but you can also consider a combination of battery-powered and plug-in lights. For seniors who tend to wake up during the night, motion-triggered lights can ensure additional safety.
Sharp corners are not dangerous just for kids
People of a certain age have trouble maintaining balance, and they can injure themselves on the corners of tables, closets, chairs, shelves, and similar objects. That’s why you’ll want to avoid using sharp-edged furniture and even furniture with glass, as it can lead to more grievous injuries. If you cannot afford to replace all the pieces, you can use the same tricks as when child-proofing.
Finally, you can use the perks of technology, such as medical alert systems, to help with creating a safer environment for your elderly family member. Most importantly, you need to assure them that everything you are doing is for their own wellbeing and help them adjust to the changes. Depending on their degree of independence, include them in planning the home layout and let them know that their input is valued.
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