Caring For Elders - Elder Proofing the Home
By Hal Robertson
Did you know that it's estimated that 1/3 to 1/2 of all home accidents could be prevented if various modifications and repairs were made? It's true and especially so with elderly folks. With a little effort, a keen eye for hazards and the drive to ensure your elder is as safe as possible, you'll be able to rest easy knowing you've made your elder's living space as safe as possible.
The best way to get started in elder proofing your home or the home of your elder and doubling or even tripling the chances of keeping your elder out of harms way is by completing a hazard survey. To do things right, you'll want to cover all the bases - both inside and outside of your elder's apartment or house.
When surveying the inside of your elder's residence, go from room to room looking for things that could be a danger. Things like area rugs, loose bathroom tiles, beds that are too high or low or obstacles on the floor or counters to name just a few potential problem areas. Get rid of rugs that aren't secured to the floor. Even areas that you feel are just fine can present significant danger to an older person. Consider that even something as a coffee table or an unsturdy shelf can present major challenges to someone who isn't as steady on their feet as they used to be. Be sure to remove all low standing coffee tables and ottomans, along with any other objects on the floor such as baskets and footstools. Don't allow your elder to talk you into keeping these items - it's critical for their safety to have them removed.
Stairways are another area that should be viewed as a potential trouble spot. Sure, they've never been an issue in the past, but now they can become a major issue. Ensure they are well lit and have some sort of gripping treads on them if they aren't carpeted.
Other areas to consider are:
1. Improve the lighting both inside and outside of the home or apartment.
2. Determine the fate of small animals such as dogs or cats. Weigh safety concerns against the companionship the animals provide.
3. Purchase and put an automatic pill dispenser into service.
4. Install turntable shelves in cabinets and set up plastic turntables on shelves that are already in place.
5. Purchase a reaching device for those hard to reach items in the cupboards. NEVER allow your elder to climb up and down a ladder or step stool.
When reviewing your elder's home for potential hazards, remember that accidents can happen even after you've done your best to elder proof their home. But by taking the steps outlined above, you'll make your elder's home much safer for them and will greatly reduce the chance of accidents happening.