A Home Safety Checklist to Use When Visiting Aging Loved Ones
When it comes to aging relatives, a lot can change in the space of a few months or since the last time we last saw them. You may notice that your loved one’s health or cognitive status has declined, or that they seem more frail than they did before—leaving them more susceptible to an accident or fall, especially if they live alone.
Kate Blank, LCSW, Care Manager at Seniors At Home, says, “There are some hidden dangers in our homes that are particularly unsafe for older adults who are at greater risk of developing complications from an accident or a fall. It is important to make sure your loved one’s home is assessed and set up to be as safe as possible.”
Luckily, there are some clear risks to look for when you visit your aging parent’s home, and measures you can take to make sure they stay safe at home. Use our Home Safety Checklist below.
Your Home Safety Checklist:
- Check the floors for electrical cords
Look out for any electrical cords that are lying out where your loved one could trip and fall. Move them out of the way, or tape them to the wall.
- Secure all area rugs
Ensure that all area rugs have mats underneath to keep them from slipping or from curling up at the edges. Slippery mats or curled edges can be dangerous for older adults who are less steady on their feet.
- Set up a medical alert system
Medical alert systems are available as a device someone can wear around their neck or on their wrist, in case of an emergency.
However, these systems can be off-putting for some older adults. Kate says, “I often come across clients who are reluctant to wear a medical alert system because it carries the stigma of being an ‘old person’.”
For those seniors, Kate recommends making sure that they can at least access the telephone from many parts of the house in case of an emergency. She says, “Place a phone by the bed, in the bathroom, and other parts of the house, or ask that they carry a cell phone in their pocket during the day. Post phone numbers of family, friends, and emergency and medical providers on the wall so your loved one knows who to dial.”
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house are working properly and have charged batteries. If you are unsure how to test them, call the alarm system’s manufacturer.
If your loved one’s house does not have smoke or CO detectors, set them up as soon as possible. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that you should have a carbon monoxide and smoke alarm centrally located outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom.
- Clean out the medicine cabinet
Whenever you visit, it is a good idea to suggest clearing out the medicine cabinet together. Throw away any expired medication, as it is not safe for your loved one to take, and make sure they do have all the medications that they need.
- Put a mat in the bathtub/shower
The bathroom can be a slippery place. If your loved one has become unsteady on their feet, it’s a good idea to get assessed by an occupational therapist to see if they need bars to hold onto in the bathroom. A thorough Home Assessment by a Seniors At Home Care Manager can point you in the direction of someone who can help.
- Ensure there are handrails by the stairs
Any steps or staircases inside or outside your loved one’s home should have handrails available to make going up and down safer. If your parent is really struggling to use stairs without assistance, it may be a good idea to learn about how home care can help.
Checking your loved one’s home for hidden dangers will go a long way to ensuring their day to day safety. However, if you are finding it difficult to talk to your parent about making changes or implementing any safety measures, consider having a professional come in to do it and take the pressure off yourself.
Seniors At Home Care Managers, for example, can do a Home Assessment in which they see your loved one in their home environment and make professional recommendations about how to ensure it is safe.
To learn more about Home Assessments, or with any questions about home safety, call our free information line at 415-449-3700 or contact us online today.