10 Home Safety “Parent-Proofing” Tips for Caregivers

Home safety precautions protect seniors from accidents and injuries. While some may require minor renovations, other home safety measures can be implemented in a matter of minutes. 

We may think of home safety instinctively when it comes to small children. But it’s important to keep in mind regarding seniors too. Whether seniors living at home have arthritis, are prone to falls or suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, home safety is an important priority for caregivers. It’s also something to evaluate on a regular basis as seniors age and their health needs change.

Consider these tips for “parent-proofing” a senior’s home.

1. Make sure all living spaces are well lit.

Eyesight diminishes with age. So extra light can make a significant difference to a senior’s safety. Some suggestions for improving lighting around the house:

  • If a room is dimly lit, change to higher wattage light bulbs.
  • Leave the bathroom light on at night.
  • Make sure light switches are available at the top and bottom of staircases.

2. Install a personal response service.

Safety at the press of a button. Medical alert bracelets, pendants, wristbands or tabletop consoles are among the devices seniors can use to contact a call center in case of an emergency.

3. Turn down the water heater temperature, if needed.

To prevent accidental burns or scalding, set the water heater temperature to 120° Fahrenheit or lower. This is also a good way to keep energy bills lower.

4. Install railings and/or grab bars where needed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of adults age 65 and over falls each year. These falls result in both nonfatal and fatal injuries. For safety and privacy, add grab bars or handles to the shower and tub (inside and out) as well as on either side of the toilet. All interior and exterior staircases should have sturdy rails too.

5. Clear the floors.

Remove throw rugs, electrical wires, low-lying decorations and similar items that can cause a senior to trip, slip or fall. Do this in every room or the house, and make sure all walkways and doorways are clear. Seniors who require a cane or walker will need ample space in hallways and doorways to turn around.

6. Offer help in the kitchen.

Seniors who still enjoy cooking may have shakey hands. Being with them to prepare meals and perform tasks that require added dexterity and mobility can help them maintain a sense of independence.

7. Put household items and appliances within reach.

Groceries, dishes, small appliances and other everyday items should be within easy reach for seniors. If they have to get on a stool to reach something, it risks injury. Similarly, bending to a low cabinet might also present challenges. Talk to the senior about how you can rearrange cabinets and countertops to make items more accessible.

8. Organize the closet.

Getting dressed and undressed can be difficult for seniors with arthritis, shakey hands or vision problems. Organize the closets to make clothes, coats and shoes more accessible. If necessary, take seniors shopping for comfortable clothing with minimal buttons.

9. Go through the medicine cabinet.

Dispose of expired prescription and over-the-counter medications. Some seniors may benefit from a bubble pack or more convenient dispenser. Medication tracking and reminder tools can help seniors remember to take pills when they’re supposed to, or alert caregivers when a senior has forgotten. If necessary, caregivers may want to lock medicines in a cabinet to ensure a senior’s safety.

10.  Clean out the fridge.

Poor nutrition leads to poor health. Seniors need adequate calcium and vitamin D to keep their bones healthy and lower the risk of fractures. Those with heart problems, diabetes and other health conditions require a healthy, well-monitored diet. If cooking and grocery shopping are difficult for a senior, offer to help or have meals delivered. Maybe an in-home cook is in order, if that’s an option financially.

Feeling Safe at Home

“Parent-proofing” a senior’s home is all about safety. But it’s also something to talk about with the senior. Have an honest conversation that emphasizes your concerns about safety and avoiding injury. Seniors should feel that although these changes are happening around them, it’s still their home.

Do you have additional home safety tips for senior caregivers? Please share your comments below.  

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“Dana Larsen is a senior living writer whose mission is to educate and empower caregivers and equip them with the resources and knowledge they need to not only care for their elderly loved ones, but also care for themselves.

On a personal note, Dana is mother to two bright-eyed, zealous children and helps as a caregiver for her vivacious and quirky 88-year-old grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Her passions include dancing, yoga, traveling, good food and the arts. She graduated with honors from University of Washington with a degree in English and Communications and achieved Technical Communications Certification from Bellevue College. View Dana’s Google Profile.”

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