*Keeping the Home Safe for Seniors

December 19, 2010

Seniors make up thirteen percent of the United States’ population. The number of senior citizens sixty five and over is expected to triple by 2020 as the country continues to face a gerontological phenomenon called “the graying of America.” As such, culture shifts have been directed towards providing sustainable elderly care.

Although the elderly have several options on where to spend their golden years, a popular choice seems to be aging at home with assisted living services provided by family members or nursing care agencies. This allows senior citizens to maintain some form of independent living, be surrounded by familiar people and things and continue on with old habits and activities. Many also prefer to live with and be cared for by their adult children as tradition dictates. No more than five percent are in nursing homes or retirement communities.

Whatever place of residence is chosen, the safety and comfort of the elderly must be given equal consideration as one would if “baby-proofing” a home. Ensure your home or the home you have chosen for your loved one is well-equipped with the right improvements to keep them safe.  Following are some safety tips to consider when setting up a living space or choosing the right home for an aging loved one:

  1. Make sure that all floors, including stairs, are not slippery. Vinyl flooring is a good option as it comes in non-slip sheets and is commonly used in high traffic areas such as hospitals and schools.  Ceramic tiles with good traction are also a perfect option.  If hardwood floors, it is best not to use wax for polishing.  Aside from the fact wax is not the best option for hardwood flooring, it is slippery and unsafe.  Remove rugs/mats or securethese to the floor.
  2. Carpet flooring would be the best option for homes with seniors, especially if mobility could be an issue.  However, make sure carpets are diligently kept clean as it can cause problems to those who may have respiratory problems aggravated by allergens bred in unclean carpets.
  3. Bathroom flooring must be given particular attention as most falls and slips occur inside bathrooms. Slate flooring’s moderately rough surface make it a viable bathroom flooring option.  Textured glass tiles or ceramics could likewise be a safe alternative.
  4. Toilets, tubs, and the shower area should be installed with grab bars.  If your bathroom has a shower enclosure, it would be best to use plexi-glass.  If shower doors are already made of real glass, ensure it is tempered glass and the enclosure has been installed firmly around the area it can actually assist in bracing possible slips.  Water temperature should have a tolerable maximum level.
  5. Pathways, hallways and stairways must be well-lit, especially at night, and free of all tripping hazards like appliance wires and other clutter.
  6. There should be sturdy handrails on both sides of stairs.  The stairs may also be carpeted, or a good portion of it, to provide traction.
  7. Common household items or appliance should be within easy reach to discourage the use of ladders or worse, climbing onto a chair.

Remember: even the smallest of things neglected in your home may cause injuries or health hazards to seniors or children.  Keep a checklist handy to remind you of the maintenance and inspection that should be implemented on a regular basis in your home.  If a retirement home is a more viable option for your senior loved one, evaluate their safety precautions and maintenance policies before making a choice.

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