The holiday season has officially arrived. For many, the final month of the year is filled with festive gatherings with family and friends. If you are heading out of town to visit older loved ones this holiday season, be on the lookout for anything around the home that could hinder their safety.
Research shows that over 90% of older adults ages 55 to 75 plan to age in their own home. But 65% of older adults' homes have at least one potential safety issue, as reported by their adult children. Knowing this, it is critical to speak up and address any household hazards such as loose carpet, poor lighting or wobbly furniture.
"Home should be a place where we feel secure and comfortable," said Jenny Munro, gerontologist at Home Instead. "But as we age, modifications may need to be made to ensure this fact remains the same. By prioritizing safety and being proactive about making adjustments, your loved one can maintain their independence and remain safe at home long into the future."
Simple adjustments can be made to ensure a home is a safe place for your older adult to live and thrive. As you head home for the holidays and visit aging loved ones, be mindful of potential hazards in their living space and make necessary modifications. If you're unsure where to start, consider the following spaces:
- Bedroom: It's important that beds are at a safe level for older adults to avoid fall risks. Consider placing bed risers under the bed legs if it's too low or remove the bed frame to lower the bed's height if it's too tall. Add a nightlight or lamps controlled by clapper switches or voice activation to ensure your loved one can safely navigate the room in the middle of the night.
- Bathroom: Add grab bars to the shower and bathtubs to prevent falls and other accidents. Rugs are great for catching water around the bathing area, but make sure you're using non-slip mats. Purchase a seat riser to make getting on and off the toilet easier.
- Living Room: Check that furniture is still sturdy and safe. If chairs have wobbly arms or legs, consider upgrading to a new set. Consider removing bigger pieces of furniture and add shelving or bookcases to prevent clutter that otherwise would be on the floor. Consider having lock-in switches on thermostats installed to control the temperature and help prevent furnace fires.
- Kitchen: Proper lighting is critical all throughout the home, but especially where older adults are cooking or baking. Increase light wattage to allowable levels. Move frequently used items to the shelves closest to the counter for easy access and avoid the use of step stools. Make sure there is a fire extinguisher accessible, as well as functioning smoke detectors.
- Stairs: Regularly traveling up and down stairs, especially if steep, can be dangerous. Add at least one railing the entire length of the wall or consider adding a stairlift as a safe and comfortable way to access to any level of the home. Consult with a credible contractor for installation.
Do not let household hazards threaten your loved one's safety and independence. Review Home Instead's Home Safety Checklist for ways to make certain your loved one can age in place.