As your loved ones age (parents, grandparents, etc.), sometimes a decision will need to be made regarding their ability to continue living safely at home. Oftentimes, this will depend not only on their mental and physical abilities but also on financial and caregiver availability and support.
The decision has been made for your loved one to remain at home – now what? Initially, the safety of the environment should be evaluated. Geriatric independence may present safety issues as a tradeoff; therefore, some home modifications may be required to reduce these safety risks.
It is important to remember to discuss the changes you believe need to be made and the reasons for these changes with your loved one before making modifications; involvement in the elder’s own care is critical to supporting his/her sense of independence.
• Install non-slip backing on throw rugs or area rugs if they present a trip or fall hazard; or consider removing to completely eliminate the risk.
• Consider rearranging or moving furniture (chairs, tables, floor lamps, etc.) in order to create unobstructed passageways for ambulation with a wheelchair, walker, cane, etc.
• Keep a current list of medications at all times; take this list to all physician visits and consult a copy when refilling daily pillboxes, if used.
• Keep a current list of important contacts (typed in larger print) in multiple locations in the home. This should include physicians, family members, private or agency caregivers, and local emergency numbers.
• Ensure there is a phone within reach from all bedsides, sitting areas, etc. and ensure the elder is capable of carrying a portable one with him/her throughout the house when alone. Affixing one or two emergency contact numbers to the back of all portable phones may be helpful.
• Consider adapting lamps throughout the home with a wireless switch so individuals with arthritis may just push a button to turn these on.
It may be helpful to seek input and advice from family and friends who have had to make similar decisions and experienced these scenarios. Consider consultation with a family physician, social services, local senior resource groups, and online and printed articles for more support. One thing is true above all; you, the caregiver, cannot do it alone.