As the professionals at Home Safety Research know well, a home that seems like a safe haven can actually be filled with dangers, especially for the elderly. Some of these hazards lie in obvious places but are easily overlooked. That’s why it’s important to conduct a home safety assessment in households where seniors are present.
Aging in place – the idea of staying at home as long as possible while aging – is a widespread ideal and promises a more comfortable life in the later stages of life. But aging presents certain challenges that turn common household elements into dangerous conditions. It’s vital that individuals adapt their homes accordingly.
The team at Home Safety Research stresses that safety assessments and proper security measures should be the first priority for elderly residences. Since 1997, Home Safety Research has been conducting such assessments and offers a number of resources and tools to help elderly people live more safely at home, including security systems, two-way voice monitoring, and personalized safety consultations.
"It's very important to make the home as safe as possible,” says a Home Safety Research representative. By facilitating these systems in your own household, you can help your aging loved ones avoid assisted living facilities and live at home for as long as possible.
“Aging often brings a range of physical and cognitive challenges that can make living at home risky and, all too often, an unsafe option without adapting the home environment to accommodate disabilities,” explains Deborah Fins, an expert on safe aging in place. She explains that a home safety assessment by an occupational therapist can be extremely helpful in this regard.
It’s easy to overlook the household dangers that effect the elderly. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, more than one in three people over the age of 64 will fall each year. In fact, falling is the leading cause of injury-related deaths among this age group. Hip fractures are particularly common, and about 90 percent of these occur as the result of a fall. When such injuries occur, one in five people will die from them within a year, and only about 25 percent recovery completely.
Falling is particularly common among the elderly for a few different reasons. Systems that control balance tend to become impaired as people grow older. This might include visual and inner ear problems. Older adults may have trouble responding to small variations and steps, leaving them susceptible to tripping. Generally, though seniors usually attribute their falls to slipping or tripping, their falls are usually a result of improper weight shifting.
It’s clear that any home where elderly adults reside must be thoroughly analyzed to avoid tripping or slipping situations. It can be helpful to work with a home safety organization such as Home Safety Research, but you should also conduct your own personal assessment.
Keep an eye out for loose rugs and make sure they are secured with double-sided tape to present slipping. Flooring should be skid-free in general. To prevent improper weight shifting, opt for easy-to-access outlets and light switches, as well as chairs that have solid arm rests to assist in standing up. Rooms should be free of clutter and loose cords, which could also lead to tripping.
Bathrooms can be especially dangerous, but a few safety measures can eliminate the risk of falling. Use rubber bathmats in showers and tubs and make sure bathroom rugs are secure. It’s important to have grab bars in the bath or shower to protect older adults who are prone to falls. Make sure that faucets and shower knobs are easy to reach, as well. Many showers have high thresholds that make getting in and out a bit risky. If possible, make sure these thresholds are level. Portable shower seats and moveable shower heads are also helpful elements to have.
According to Home Safety Research professionals, you can coordinate safe conditions throughout your home by installing handrails near all stairways, or ramps for those with wheelchairs and walkers.
Falling isn’t the only injury risk that older adults may face. Home fires are always a real risk and it’s vital that elderly residences are assessed and such hazards are eliminated. Since older adults may lack the mobility necessary to save themselves from a spreading fire, completely prevention should be a top priority.
Smoke alarms are important for any household. You will want to make sure that alarms function properly by testing them on a regular basis to ensure their batteries are working.
It goes without saying that the most important element of fire safety is prevention. Make sure plug sockets are being used correctly without being overloaded. Check that all wires, cables, electric blankets, and other electrical appliances are in good conditions. Cooking appliances should never be located or used near dry clothes or linens. Furthermore, any flammable material should be stored safely in garages. Chimneys should be cleaned regularly.
For many adults, ensuring the safety of elderly parents is a top priority. Many seniors want to age in the comfort and happiness of their own homes, but this can put them at risk unless proper measures are taken. Thanks to organizations like Home Safety Research, aging adults and their loved ones can get the information they need to design a home that is safe and comfortable for aging in place.