Although many seniors can take care of themselves in their old age, limited mobility can mean that previously innocuous home features, such as stairs and tiled floors, become serious hazards. Falls, sudden illness, and other problems can quickly become life-threatening if safety precautions aren’t in place. Seniors may also struggle to deal with emergencies like fires or break-ins.
Carers and family members can reduce the overall amount of furniture in rooms where older adults frequently move to make their walking routes safer. However, more in-depth investments like putting the right safety infrastructure in their home can alter the outcome of minor accidents and everyday events. Here are the essential items to have on a home safety checklist for seniors.
Wearable Call Buttons
Even healthy seniors can become immobilized by a serious fall. Since osteoporosis and other bone conditions can go undetected for years, it’s possible for a fall to badly break one or more bones. A broken hip can be especially dangerous for long-term recovery, so it’s essential that injured seniors can get help as soon as possible.
There are a variety of wearable panic buttons that can instantly call 911, but they often require a special subscription. If other people live in the home and you want a non-emergency option, you can get a button that simply calls a designated electronic box that can be placed anywhere in the home. Either way, this is an essential item on your home safety checklist for seniors.
Home Security System
Robust home security systems are a necessity for dealing with emergencies. Since many seniors struggle with delayed reaction times and slower movement, they might not be able to investigate a strange sound, fire, or CO2 alarm quickly.
Many modern home security systems include doorbell cameras that allow seniors to identify and communicate with visitors quickly. When choosing a security camera, opt for a Wi-Fi connectivity unit, which enables the homeowner to view visitors on a smartphone. This prevents seniors from hurrying around the house unnecessarily or making themselves vulnerable by opening the front door for a stranger.
Subscribing to a home security system provides 24/7 support in case something trips an alarm on the property. Choose a plan with the right combination of smoke, carbon monoxide, and burglary alarms, as many providers charge different monthly or one-time prices for each service. Look for features including motion detectors on doors, windows, and outdoor fixtures, a video doorbell that allows seniors to communicate with mail carriers and visitors via their smartphone, and motion-activated lighting to deter would-be intruders.
Steps, ramps, and slippery flooring can present a significant hazard for older adults with balance issues. Install handrails along both sides of any hazardous area inside and outside the home to ensure that seniors can get a firm grip if they need it.
Although a handrail on one side of the steps is better than nothing, having both sides guarded is critical for protection around front porches and patios. It’s difficult to prevent falling backward or forward, but a handrail on each side of the steps can at least prevent a fall sideways.
Periodically inspect each handrail in the home for loose screws or other signs of damage. A handrail needs to be able to support an individual’s full weight to be effective for fall prevention. Hire a contractor to install or repair a handrail and ensure the job is done right.
Safe Shower and Bath
Various products can enhance shower or bathtub safety, and there are several that belong on your home safety checklist for seniors. At a minimum, seniors should have a rubberized mat on the bottom of the shower or bathtub. A mat that secures in place with suction cups gives additional traction even if your balance or footing is unsteady.
A handle on the tub or shower side is also an excellent idea, especially if seniors experience balance issues. Look for a wide enough handle for older hands to grip easily and is specially designed for use in baths and other wet environments. This option works best with a showerhead with a handheld attachment for easy bathing.
For seniors considering a bathroom safety renovation, a walk-in bathtub is an excellent option. These tubs have a door that seals into place to form the tub’s wall. Include a height-adjustable bath seat that makes it easier to get in and out of the tub.
Padding and Rug Mats
Furniture can be helpful for storage and everyday living, but it can also be a potential hazard during a hard fall. Any hard furniture near walking paths should have foam corner padding placed on them to reduce the potential for concussions or broken bones during a fall.
Rugs can cause a severe fall if they slip against the floor underneath them. If there are rugs in the home, place double-stick tape or non-slip rubber backing underneath them to keep them from sliding.
Fumbling around in the dark for a light switch can result in bumps, bruises, and falls. This can be even more dangerous around the top of stairs, especially in older homes that don’t have convenient light switches at both ends of a hallway.
Putting a glow-in-the-dark faceplate on a light switch offers better visibility, but you may sometimes need an entirely new light switch. Talk to an electrician about installing an additional switch in critical areas like hallways and stairwells.
Placing motion sensor-activated night lights along hallways, inside bathrooms, and on the walls, next stairs is an affordable and effective way to illuminate dangerous areas of the home.
Proper Step Stool
Using a chair as a step stool may work for most people, but for seniors with poor balance or mobility problems, it’s vital to use a proper step ladder with a support bar at the top. Get a step stool with at least three small steps with non-slip grip and a support bar or handrail, allowing seniors to reach higher shelves without risking a serious fall.
Alternatively, move essential items, such as food and medication, lower on your storage shelves and cabinets. If you are lacking space, use containers on the countertops to keep frequently used items. When organizing a senior’s home, declutter cupboards and closets, and invest in clear stackable storage bins for rarely used items and label them clearly.
Although making a senior’s home safer can seem overwhelming at first glance, carers and family members can tackle it a little at a time. Many items are easy to order online, and choosing the right brand and model for each becomes easier with the range of user reviews available.
Communicate with the other members of your household to make sure everyone’s needs are addressed. With a little planning and foresight, you or your loved one can enjoy a long and healthy life with fewer injuries or everyday inconveniences.