While many seniors want to stay in their homes as they age, there is a downside if steps aren’t taken to ensure their safety. According to the American Geriatrics Society, falls, fires and poisonings pose significant threats to older Americans at home. Since June is National Home Safety Month and we are all finding ourselves at home more often, we wanted to share some tips to make aging in place as safe as possible.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers in large, easy-to-read type or print by each phone. (If a land line phone is no longer used, program emergency numbers in a mobile phone.) The list should include 911, poison control, the number of an emergency contact and the number of the senior’s primary health care provider. In addition, consider putting together a document that contains detailed information about medications, medical conditions/diagnoses and additional emergency contacts which may be posted on the refrigerator. (If the senior uses a mobile phone, enter this information into the phone as well.)
- Fall prevention is a high priority.
- Choose footwear with non-slip soles and avoid slippers and shoes that don’t fully contain the foot like flip flops, mules, etc., as well as high heels. If a cane or walker is needed, use it consistently. Holding on to furniture or walls is not reliable assistance. If a fall does occur, a wearable alarm button around the neck or wrist can be very helpful to quickly summon help.
- Keep all hallways, stairs and paths well-lit and free of clutter. All stairways should have a secure handrail. Eliminate area and throw rugs, especially if using a walker.
- Many falls occur in the bathroom. Walk-in showers, shower or tub seats and grab bars all help with safe transfers in and out of the shower or bath. A rubber mat helps prevent slipping and hand-held shower nozzles allow showering while sitting. Grab bars, raised toilet seats and toilet arm rests help make sure transfers on and off the toilet are as safe as possible.
- Fires in the home also present a potential threat. Georgia’s Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner recommends those who have impaired hearing or those who have other disabilities that make the alarm difficult to hear, install smoke alarms that use strobe lights and vibrators in addition to sound. If the unit is battery operated or has battery back-up, the batteries should be replaced at least once a year. Avoid wearing loose clothes while cooking and never leave cooking food unattended.
- Poisoning, including misuse of medications, is another concern. Request that the pharmacist put large, easily read labels on medications. Make it a habit to take medication in a well-lit area so the labels can be clearly read. Keep all drugs in their original containers and bring all medications, including over-the-counter varieties, to doctors’ appointments to ensure they’re being taken correctly.
Finally, we know that the current COVID-19 pandemic poses a higher risk to our health and safety. We encourage seniors to follow the best practices mandated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) including:
- Stay at home – Except for essential medical care and walks outside, seniors should stay inside. Seniors should avoid traveling and large group gatherings, which have been banned in many states across the country.
- Practice social distancing – Avoid close contact with others that don’t live in your home with you by maintaining at least six feet of distance. (This rule does not apply to caregivers administering medically necessary care.)
- Wash your hands – Regardless of age or vulnerability, everyone should be washing their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean and disinfect – Most household disinfectants should work, but check the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of disinfectants that are effective against the virus. Make sure to clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, remote controls, tables and countertops, faucets, light switches, etc.
- Wear a mask in public – To prevent illness and the spread of the virus, everyone should be wearing a face cover when in public spaces even if they do not feel symptomatic. Masks offer added protection while in public spaces where social distancing isn’t always possible, such as pharmacies or grocery stores. (Note: Face masks are NOT advised for anyone who has trouble breathing or who is unable to remove the mask without assistance.)
At Kadan Homecare, the ultimate goal of our caregiving team is to keep seniors healthy and safe in their homes. If you have concerns about the safety of a loved one’s environment, please don’t hesitate to call us for a complimentary consultation. For our clients, every month is “Home Safety Month” and we’re here to help.