Support, guidance & advice for todays primary carers
Creating a safe and supportive home environment for aging parents is essential to ensure they can continue living independently and enjoy their golden years with dignity.
From installing grab bars in the bathroom to decluttering their living space, there are many simple steps that you can take to make your parents’ home safer and more comfortable.
Fortunately, a few simple precautions can prevent most falls in the home. The following helpful tips will guide you through a series of modifications to make your parent’s home safer and more comfortable.
Challenges of Aging & Potential Risks
As we grow older, the places we consider our homes can pose a more significant challenge to navigate. There are various factors that can make things harder and increase the risk of accidents and injuries.
Below are some of the challenges that your aging parent may have to face:
1. Decreased Mobility and Balance
As individuals age, their mobility and balance may decrease due to a variety of factors, such as muscle weakness, joint pain, and reduced flexibility. This can increase the risk of falls, resulting in serious injuries such as fractures, head trauma, and bruises.
Some potential risks associated with decreased mobility and balance include:
• Tripping on loose carpets, rugs, or cords
• Slipping on wet floors
• Losing balance while climbing stairs
• Losing balance while getting in and out of a bathtub or shower
• Losing balance while reaching for objects on high shelves
2. Changes in Vision
A change in vision, such as cataracts, can make it challenging to see objects clearly, especially in lowlight environments. This can increase the risk of accidents and injuries, particularly if the aging individual navigates an unfamiliar area of their home.
Some potential risks associated with vision changes include:
• Tripping over objects that are difficult to see
• Misjudging the distance between objects can result in collisions or falls
• Having difficulty reading labels on medication bottles, which can result in incorrect dosing
3. Hearing loss
Hearing loss caused by aging can pose a safety risk if emergency alarms or warnings go unnoticed.
Some potential risks associated with hearing loss include:
• Not hearing smoke alarms, which can delay evacuation in the event of a fire
• Not hearing the doorbell or phone, which can result in missed appointments or deliveries
• Not hearing warnings or announcements in public spaces, which can increase the risk of accidents or injuries
Assessing the Home Environment
Creating a safe and supportive home environment for an aging parent begins with a thorough assessment of the home environment. This assessment should identify potential hazards and evaluate the accessibility of key areas within the home.
Identify Potential Hazards in the Home
The first step in assessing the home environment is identifying potential hazards that may increase the risk of falls or accidents. Uneven flooring, poor lighting, and clutter are common hazards that should be addressed.
Ensure that walkways are clear and free from tripping hazards. Installing grab bars or handrails in high-risk areas such as the bathroom can also help reduce the risk of falls.
Consider the Layout of the Home
The home layout should be evaluated to determine if modifications are needed to accommodate the parent’s mobility or cognitive abilities. Consider installing ramps or stairlifts to improve mobility or rearranging furniture to create wider walkways.
If the parent is experiencing cognitive decline, labelling cabinets or drawers with important items can help them find what they need more easily.
Evaluate the Accessibility of Key Areas
Key areas such as the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom should be evaluated for accessibility. Make sure that there are no tripping hazards in the bathroom and that grab bars are installed where needed.
Consider lowering countertops or installing pull-out drawers in the kitchen to make accessing items easier. In the bedroom, ensure that the bed is comfortable and has ample lighting for reading or other activities.
Making Physical Modifications
When it comes to ensuring the safety and accessibility of a home for an aging parent, physical modifications can be incredibly helpful.
Here are some modifications that you may want to consider:
1. Make Safety Modifications:
• Add handrails along staircases and in high-risk areas like the bathroom
• Install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet
• Remove tripping hazards like loose rugs or cluttered walkways
• Improve lighting to reduce the risk of falls
2. Improve Accessibility:
• Install ramps for easier access to the home
• Widen doorways to accommodate mobility aids like walkers or wheelchairs
• Lower countertops in the kitchen for easier access
• Install pull-out drawers in cabinets for easier access to items
Making these physical modifications can greatly improve an aging parent’s quality of life and safety in their home. It is important to consult with professionals and experts to ensure the modifications are done properly and safely.
Utilising Assistive Devices
Numerous assistive devices are available to improve older parents’ quality of life and help them navigate their home environment more easily.
Here are some examples to consider:
• Canes, walkers, and wheelchairs can help improve mobility and reduce the risk of falls.
• Stairlifts and ramps can make it easier to navigate stairs and enter/exit the home.
• Hearing aids can improve the parent’s ability to communicate and hear alarms or warnings.
• Amplified telephones and doorbells can also improve communication and safety.
• Devices like tablets or smartphones can help the parent stay connected with family and friends, access medical information, and even control devices in the home like thermostats or lighting.
Using assistive devices can make aging parents more independent and confident in navigating their home environment. It is important to consult with professionals and experts to ensure the devices are fitted and functioning correctly.
Creating a Supportive Environment
You can create a supportive environment for your aging parents by following these steps:
Creating a supportive environment for aging parents involves making the necessary modifications to the home to ensure safety and accessibility. Regular transportation for errands and appointments can also ease their daily stress and provide a sense of independence.
Also, hiring a housekeeper or lawn care service can enhance their living space by maintaining a clean and organized environment. Many older adults have the desire and the ability to live safely and independently at home but need a little help.
Take steps now to ensure your parents’ safety and the home environment. We wish you the best of luck creating a safe space for your aging parent! ACG
Evelyn K. Grier is a writer and editor with years of experience in the healthcare industry.
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