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"Elder Proofing" Your Home

Senior Parents Place

As a grandparent and great-grandparent, I've become intimately familiar with the ins and outs of today's baby proofing requirements. The concept of organizing the home in a way that's safer for those more vulnerable applies perfectly to anyone who is also caring for an aging loved one. 

The fact is, accidents in the home account for approximately 1/3 of all injuries in seniors. So it’s important to take a closer look at your surroundings and determine how you might be able to make your home safer for an older loved one. This is also important to do in the home of your older parent, spouse, sibling, or other relative, especially as more and more elderly choose to stay in their own homes as they age. 

When it comes to elder proofing, I like to divide the home into three key areas: the main living areathe kitchen, and the bathroom.
Main living area. My number one pet peeve in any home is throw rugs – they’re an accident waiting to happen! Get rid of them if you can, along with any other clutter that may cause a fall. If the rugs hold sentimental value or are in good condition, consider affixing a sticky rubber adhesive backing so they don't slip around. Other elder proofing tips for the main living areas include:

  • Alarms: Make sure all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are properly installed, have fresh batteries, and are tested regularly to be in perfect working condition.
  • Lighting & wiring: Increase the wattage of light bulbs both inside and outside the home for better visibility. Also, check the wiring to all lamps. Often, you will find at least one frayed wire that could cause a fire. 
  • Electrical outlets: Many outlets are overloaded and can shoot sparks.  This is easily remedied by purchasing surge suppressor strips.
  • Doors & locks: Replace doorknobs with easy-to-grab levers, and remove interior locks where possible to prevent an accidental lock-in.

Kitchen. The kitchen is another potential danger zone, where something as simple as turning on the wrong faucet can cause burns to fragile skin. Make sure to clearly label all water faucets in the home as “hot” and “cold,” and set the temperature on the water heater to 120 degrees or lower. Other essential fixes in the kitchen include:

  • Dishes: Put all appliances, dishes, and silverware where they’re easy to reach to avoid dropping and breaking, and remove knives and other sharp objects. Better still, use unbreakable dishes whenever possible.
  • Appliances: Check the refrigerator for leaks that can rot floors and create slippery surfaces.
  • Fires: Watch for loose sleeves on clothing that can easily catch fire while cooking, and have a stove-top fire extinguisher readily accessible at all times.

Bathroom. It's more likely that an elderly person will be injured in a bathroom than anywhere else in the home! A few things you can do to make sure this doesn’t happen include:

  • Slipping & sliding: Avoid falls by adding non-slip strips to the tub and/or shower floor, and using non-skid mats on the bathroom floor.
  • Safety rails: Grab bars should be placed both inside and directly outside the tub/shower, as well as by the toilet. Proper installation of these items is key, so get outside help if you need it.
  • Toilets: Even a raised toilet seat can be a huge blessing for older knees. 

On a separate but related note: elder safety is not just about creating a physically safe environment in the home.  Elder fraud and identity theft over the phone and the Internet has recently emerged as a major threat, and has become an equally important safety concern.  Unfortunately, the older generation (which is far more trusting) is more likely to fall victim to the various elder fraud tactics.  I make sure that all of my clients know to never give out any vital information to someone they don’t know, whether in person or over the phone.  This includes Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden name, bank account, driver’s license, and personal identification numbers. 
It's up to you to be practical and proactive. You can make your loved one’s living environment much safer with a little effort and a lot of common sense.  Good luck!

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Grandparents are the most

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