Home has always been a haven. In fact, before the pandemic, 94 percent 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 percent 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.  You can use Home Instead’s 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. Give us a call and we will send a complementary one.

“Caregivers can work with older adults to identify and eliminate potential risks that they may not even realize exist,” said Dr. Lakelyn 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 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.

A room-by-room home safety checklist

The bedroom

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.

The bathroom

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.  Looking for local resources for these items? Call our office at 707.586.1516  and ask for MC or Daniella and we can help refer you to local resources that deliver and often install. 

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.  New technology also offers you to ability to manage this from a distance. Product on the market include Nest devices with APS you can control the homes temp without being in the home. 

The kitchen

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.  Be sure throw rugs under tables and chairs are not fall hazards. If walkers or wheelchairs are used in the home, ensure that rugs are not hindering mobility or causing trip hazards. Consider if you are concerned,  to roll them up & store them elsewhere.

The basement/garage 

Regularly traveling up and down stairs, especially if steep or without handrails, can introduce dangerous fall risks. To avoid this, consider reducing the need to visit the basement/garage so often by moving laundry, storage, or other important items to the main floor of the home .

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.

Julie Ann Soukoulis has owned Home Instead Senior Care in Rohnert Park for 24 years, is the mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage successful aging & family caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern?  We’d love to hear from you at 707.586.1516 ask for Daniella or Mariclair.

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