It was close to midnight when the phone rang. It was the ER at the local hospital calling to let her know that her mom was alright, but that she had taken a nasty fall. Mon had been living at home for a few years now after dad died, and none of the children were perpared to deal with senior home safety Apparently she got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and tripped over her favorite throw rug: a bear pelt that she and her husband had gotten on one of their vacations to the Yukon. Marilyn had always suspected that it was dangerous, and had read a little about senior safety at home, but mom wouldn't hear of getting rid of it, the memories were too precious to her.
Somehow the neighbor had heard her screaming for help and came to the rescue. She was unable to get up or reach the phone, and had no emergency fall necklace or bracelet. Marilyn rushed down to the hospital in the middle of the night, and finally at dawn she and mom were on their way back home.
As caregivers we here this story far too often. Besides the obvious danger of throw rugs, there are quite a few other dangers that pose no risk to younger people. Here are some of the things to look out for in each area of the house. For a complete senior home safety checklist, download our Free Safety Checklist here, or at the end of this article.
Entrance to the Home
Striving to be independent mom or dad are still going to want to go out and get the morning paper or take the trash out. Make sure the pathways are clear, the steps are in good repair, handrails are secure, and there is a view from the inside out so they can see who's at the door before they answer
According to the National Library of Medicine, small, area rugs or throw rugs are a leading reason people over 65 go to the emergency room, and lead to more hospitalizations and death than any other injuries. Most of these falls occur where there are transition areas-floor changing to carpet, wet carpets or rugs, or rushing to get to the bathroom on time. People with walkers are especially susceptible to catching the edge of rugs with the legs of the walker.
It may be a battle to get mom or dad to give up their favorite rugs, and so there is some compromise. Carpet tape can be purchased at the hardware store. This is a double sided tape that can be attached to the bottoms of rugs and holds the edges down.
Grab bars are essential necessities for senior safety at home. There should be a grab bar by the toilet, one outside of the shower or tub, and one or two inside the shower area. A shower seat is also a good idea, as well as a non-slip surface on the shower and bath floor. A night lite is important, and should be amber or red as white or blue disturbs melatonin production and can cause insomnia after a trip to the bathroom.
Clear pathways are essential, a phone and a flashlight by the bed, and a bed that is not below knee height to make is easier to get in and out of bed. A sturdy bed by the closet area is helpful to aid in dressing.
Make sure there is an uncluttered work area, that all common items are easy to reach without the use of a step stool, and that all poisons are clearly marked and stored away safely.
Needles have to be disposed of in a special "Sharps" container and disposed of as hazardous waste. Oxygen, if in use, must not have supply lines crossing walkways or posing a risk of tangling up your loved one. Spare bottles must be stored out of the way.
For a complete checklist for Senior Home Safety, please download our free guide here: