Falling down is a major concern for the elderly. Seniors are much more susceptible to broken bones from even the slightest fall. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated that in 1981, over 622,000 people over age 65 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with products that they live with and use everyday. Many seniors are opting to stay in their own homes as long as possible, some with the help of an in-home caregiver. But even with the help of a home company or aide, it's important to make the home environment as safe as possible to prevent falls and injuries. A good way to start the process of making a home "senior-safe" is to visit each room in the house individually.
Each room should be free of clutter, allowing the senior a clear pathway through the room.
- Check the carpeting: shag, thick, or deep pile carpeting can be difficult to navigate on with a walker, cane or wheelchair-
- Area rugs should be secured with rubber pads or removed completely. Bare floors can become slippery as well.
- Care should be taken on bare floors to use products that will not make the floor slippery.
- Telephone and electrical cords and curtain pull strings should be secured and out of the pathway to avoid a fall.
- Stairs in the home should have a sturdy handrail or banister in place.
Poor lighting can be the cause of many falls for the elderly. Bright, well lit room and hallways can reduce the risk of injury from falls. Placing flat, illuminated light switches on the outside outside of each room can allow seniors to lighten a room prior to entering-eliminating the need to stumble through a room in the darkness to locate a light switch.
Another area of safety concern for seniors is in the kitchen. As your loved one gets older and less agile consider removing items no longer used and move commonly used items to lower, easy to reach cabinets or shelves. Unbreakable dishes and cups can save accidents as well. Fire hazards are another area of major concern as it related to the elderly population. Appliances with automatic shut off features are an excellent precaution, especially for seniors that may forget to turn off appliances. Be sure that a working fire extinguisher is easily accessible. Instructions for using the fire extinguisher should be written in easy to read, large print and placed next to the fire extinguisher. An escape route should be posted with step-by-step instructions and reviewing regularly, especially with seniors experiencing memory loss.
Whether your loved one remains home alone or with the help of a home care agency, it is important that steps are taken to ensure their safety. The amount of time that a senior can remain home can be extended by making small, inexpensive configurations. When at all possible, be sure to include your loved one in the discussions about safety modifications prior to making any changes. For more information on home safety and home health care for seniors, call your local Office on Aging. Seniors in Burlington County NJ can call 609-265-5313 and in Camden County NJ call 856-858-3220 or to access a listing of resources for seniors in New Jersey, go to [http://www.caregivernj.gov]