Most of us have an elderly family member living at home. As time passes, their physical and mental conditions may not be as sharp as it was before. This puts them in a position of risk, even in a place familiar to them.
As people grow older, a majority of them prefer to age in place. Having built relationships and memories with the neighbors and surrounding community, along with a routine lifestyle that is a norm in the current home, most of the elderly would prefer not to have a major change in their living environment. As family members, it is then our responsibility to ensure that the home environment is as elderly-friendly as possible to reduce any risks of injuries & accidents.
The following are some basic guidelines to making your home a safer place for your elderly.
Getting rid of clutter
It is without doubt that our homes may be filled with many things, some of which may not hold as much value as they used to before. Memorabilia from your childhood, souvenirs from your previous holidays, and even just everyday items that have been piling up. All these little things usually add up over the years, and begin to clutter our living space. Not only do they take up space, the tendency for these things to accumulate dust and other pests increases over time.
Having an elderly person living in a cluttered environment not only puts them in risk of falling sick easily, it also increases their risk of tripping and falling over things that are not kept where they should be (due to lack of organization and cleanliness).
Getting rid of clutter is necessary to age-proof the home for the elderly. Start with the areas used most frequently by them and move from one space to another.
Making room downstairs
When it comes to ageing, staircases are one of the worst enemies. Having an elderly member go up and down the long flight of stairs everyday increases their risk of falling. Research has shown that 1 in 5 falls causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or head injury.
Ideally, having a room downstairs would eradicate the need to go up and down the stairs. Having said that, this process could be quite costly, and one may need to undergo home renovations.
Some other alternatives to reduce the risk of falling while using the staircase includes:
- Adding handrails on both sides of the stairs
- Ensure that sufficient lighting is installed along the staircase
- Installing a starlit (if budget permits)
Simplify Seating Arrangements
With an elderly family member spending most of their time at home, it is essential to simplify the seating arrangement. Leaving a good amount of space between furniture pieces and walls to creates sufficient room for the elderly to navigate their way around the house safer and easier. If your elderly member is in a wheelchair, ensure there is enough space for passage. The lesser things in their way reduces the risk of them bumping or knocking into things, keeping them bruise and bump free!
Consider installing an induction cooktop as an alternative to the traditional fire stove-tops. Modern day technology has made the cooking experience so much better and safer, with ergonomically designed induction cooktops which turns off automatically when a pot is removed from the surface. One could also consider installing smoke/fire detectors, and have a fire extinguisher in place for preventive purposes.
Simple changes such as converting from a traditional stove-top kettle to an electric kettle makes a huge difference. Changing from cabinets to roll-out drawers makes it easier for the elderly to reach to the back to grab their needed item.
The key to making changes in the kitchen is to create a kitchen environment that is elderly-friendly. Your elderly family members would be grateful knowing that they can still do some basic cooking and cleaning on their own, which gives them a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Start by making sure that the bedroom is properly lit. Ensure that lighting is sufficiently bright and positioned well enough so that your elderly can get around the room safely. Families should also consider installing night lights within the room to ensure that there is minimal lighting for when there is a need to get out of bed in the middle of the night.
A commode chair or a urinal may also be a useful addition to the bedroom, especially for those that struggle to get up or get around the room to the toilet. This reduces the risk of unnecessary accidents, which often times leads to having a poor self-esteem.
Adding a small stepping stool next to the bed could also be useful in assisting the elderly from getting on and off the bed. For those that struggle to get up and down from the bed, it may be advisable to have a medical bed installed instead. With the ultralow function, medical beds can be lowered to the appropriate height based on the requirements of each individual, making sure that they can get on and off the bed easily.
The room with the second highest risk of accident is the bathroom. Making a few adjustments could prevent your elderly from slipping or falling when making their way in & out of the toilet, or while they are using it.
The washroom doors knobs should be replaced with a lever for easier access, and in case of emergencies, locks are not recommended, so people from the outside can also gain access.
The strategic placing of grab bars provides your elderly with the support and grip needed to make their way in and out of the toilet safely.
Using textured flooring reduces the risk of your elderly slipping when using the bathroom. Floors should also be kept dry at all times.
With regards to the shower area, a detachable shower head is strongly recommended for the elderly. Adding a shower chair allows the elderly to be seated while showering, preventing any risks of slipping and falling.
When it comes to using the toilet, one can consider purchasing a raised toilet seat, or installing a hinged grab rail next to the toilet bowl to assist the elderly when sitting and getting off the toilet.
In general, the sinks and basins within the home should be equipped with a faucet which has a lever, as opposed to the common knob, which may be difficult for the elderly to use.
Around the house
Apart from the above, here are some safety tips for the overall house environment:
- Replace door knobs with levers for easier access
- Install panic buttons or bells at strategic locations where the elderly spends a good amount of time (eg. bedside, toilet, kitchen).
- Use corner bumpers to round off sharp edges of furniture around the house
- Ensure there is sufficient lighting around the house
- Install grab bars at strategic places to provide the needed support
These tips are brought to you by Eastiny home providing nurses, therapists, and caregivers to the home for eldercare and home recovery. Our caregivers are certified and trained to assist your elderly to age in place. We have flexible and long-term homecare packages for eldercare, palliative care, specialized care as well as nursing procedures and physiotherapy.