Home has always been a haven. In fact, before the pandemic, 94% of older adult homeowners indicated an overwhelming desire to age in the comfort of their own homes. With the added concern of COVID-19, this trend continues to accelerate, as more people than ever reconsidered long-term care facilities in favor of the place they feel safest.
While many recognize living at home to be the best option amid the pandemic, there are still obstacles that aging adults may face at home such as potential fall risks or fire hazards. According to Home Instead, 65% of older adults’ homes have at least one potential safety issue, as reported by their adult children.
Small Adjustments, Improved Home Safety
Many of these can be avoided with minor adjustments, like installing adequate lighting or removing long electrical cords obstructing walkways. Use this home safety checklist to help determine if your home or the home of an aging loved one is safe from hazards that could jeopardize well-being and independence.
“Caregivers can work with older adults to identify and eliminate potential risks that they may not even realize exist,” said Dr. Lakleyn Hogan Eichenberger, gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead. “These improvements can range from a quick fix to a small renovation, but investing the time to make these updates can help everyone feel more confident in living at home longer.”
Eichenberger encourages older adults and their caregivers to be mindful of potential hazards and make a plan to help ensure home remains the safest place to be. If unsure where to start, consider the following spaces, beginning with the most frequently used rooms. Or, download the complete home safety checklist.
A Room-by-Room Home Safety Checklist
It’s important that beds are at a safe level for older adults to avoid fall risks. Bed height is too low if a loved one’s knees are above their hips when sitting on the bed. Consider placing bed risers under the bed legs to add height. Contrarily, a bed’s level is too high if an older adults’ legs are not touching the floor while they sit on the edge of the bed. You can remove the bed frame or use a lower profile mattress to lower the bed’s height.
Adding grab bars near showers, bathtubs and toilets is a simple way to prevent falls and other accidents. Browse online or at a medical supply store for various options to reduce any accessibility risks. Installing a toilet seat riser can also aid in getting on and off the commode easier.
The Living Room
Regulating body temperature can be more difficult for aging adults. Ensure open spaces are properly heated during colder temperatures and check thermostats throughout the home. Have a caregiver or professional install lock-in switches on thermostats to control the temperature and help prevent furnace fires. Additional solutions include heat-control window film, thermal curtains or solar shades.
It’s important that the kitchen has proper lighting, especially when older adults are cooking or baking. Light wattage should be increased to allowable levels. Many options exist for under-counter lighting, such as battery-operated pucks. An electrician can help with questions about under-counter or overhead lighting. Creating easy access to frequently used items is also vital to avoid heavy lifting or the use of step stools. Consider storing heavy items on the counter or hanging pots and pans on the wall.
The Dining Room
After a few years, it’s important to check that furniture is still sturdy and safe. Check to see if chairs have wobbly arms or legs and are the proper height for older loved ones at the table. If repairs are needed, locate a furniture repair service representative, or consider upgrading to a new set.
Regularly traveling up and down stairs, especially if steep, can introduce dangerous fall risks. To avoid this, consider reducing the need to visit the basement so often by moving laundry, storage or other important items to the main floor.
By prioritizing safety and being proactive about making these adjustments, older adults will be able to remain independent and protected at home long into the future.