Tag Archives: Elderly Home Safety

Winter Heating Money Saving Tips For Seniors

As winter begins to settle in across the country, seniors need to focus on heating their homes. Heating costs need to be factored into the family budget as heating costs can take a big bite out of any budget. The rising costs of natural gas, electric, coal and even wood for fireplaces, make it harder for seniors to meet the demands of keeping their houses warm. In addition to keeping the house warm, many seniors will be staying in the house much more than in the summer and that can lead to increases in other utility bills.

There are many steps that can be taken to help address the costs of increased heating bills. Here are a few items to consider and steps to take:
• If you’re not watching the television, turn it off. Appliances and the television use a lot of electricity when they’re in use. If it’s easy and feasible, you can even consider unplugging the items as they use “phantom” electricity when they’re turned off but still plugged in.
• Turn off the lights in rooms you’re not using. Consider adding motion activated lights to specific rooms and dark hallways; that way you won’t have to fumble around in the dark to turn a light on and it will turn off after a specific time of inactivity.
• Trade in higher wattage light bulbs for lower watt models. If you have a light over a chair where you read, then keep a light that is of a high enough wattage to allow you to do that easily and without eye strain. In other areas of the house, though, lower wattage bulbs may help save money.
• Have the heating system serviced and maintenance items addressed. If it’s in good working order it will run more efficiently and save on heating bills. Ask the technician how often the air filters should be changed. If you have rooms that are simply not getting warm, it may be time to consider having the heating ducts cleaned.
• Look around the house for areas in which winds could slip through the cracks such as windows and doorways. Use weather stripping, caulk or other sealants to keep the cold air out and trap the warm air in. If you don’t have Energy Star windows you may want to consider adding plastic over the windows for an additional layer of insulation.
• The use of a programmable thermostat can save money by lowering the heat when you’re not home or when you’re sleeping and having it turn on and heat the house before you get home or wake up.
• You can also turn down the thermostat a few degrees and still stay warm by dressing in layers, wearing slippers in the house and curling up on the couch with a blanket when you’re relaxing. If you’re up and moving around during the day, chances are you will be warm enough without having to turn the thermostat up too high.
• Make certain your thermostat isn’t in direct contact with a drafty or cold area as this could make it turn on and run more frequently than it needs to. Heat sources such as lights and ovens can also impact how often your heater turns on and off.
• When you do laundry try to do it one load after another; you reduce heat loss and drying time by adding a fresh load of laundry to an already heated dryer.
• Is it possible to lower the thermostat on the water heater? You may be able to save money on the heating of the water by lowering the temperature a few degrees. In many cases a drop of a couple degrees will not make a noticeable impact on the water temperature when you shower or wash dishes.
• If you have a fireplace make certain the damper is closed when it’s not in use. Cold air can blow through the chimney and into the home through an open damper. If you’re using a fireplace it should be inspected annually.
• Do you have sufficient insulation in the attic or crawlspaces? If you’re not certain ask a family member or hire a professional to check and add more if necessary to reduce heat loss.
• Open your curtains during the day to use the heat of the sun to help warm the house. Close them at night to help retain the heat. Using heavier, insulated curtains in the winter is a great way to keep the cold wind out and the warm air in.
Don’t let the fear of heating bills cause you to turn the furnace down to such a low temperature that you become ill. As we age, it’s sometimes more difficult to notice fluctuations in temperature and you don’t want to suffer ill effects of being too cold simply because you don’t notice the chill. A steady temperature of 67 or 68 degrees is typically comfortable in the winter and if you’re cold add a sweater or another layer.

Checklist: Are Your Aging Parents In Need Of Assistance

It’s not always easy to ask for help and that is likely more evident as your parents age. You’ll notice that as they get older it’s harder for them to take care of themselves and keep up with the day-to-day necessities yet they don’t necessarily want to ask for help or admit their needs.  While aging isn’t anything we want to shy away from, it’s not always feasible to think your aging parents can continue to live the way they always have.

As they age, it may become physically impossible for them to carry out some of the tasks they are accustomed to and toward that end, family members may need to step in and help out. In many communities there are facilities that are equipped to provide services to seniors whether it’s a Meals on Wheels program, day programs at a skilled nursing facility or simply a day out at with a church group. As adult children, you may become tasked with making a determination on whether your aging relatives are healthy enough to continue living alone or whether they require additional assistance.

Observing them as they go about their daily routines at home is one way to see whether there is a need that needs to be. One of the first steps that can be very effective is to provide a medical alert device with a pendant or bracelet they push in the event of a medical emergency or a fall.  With this system, your loved has greater peace of mind and less worry in the event something should happen.

When you’re spending time with your aging family members, here are a few things to pay attention to. If you see struggles in any of these areas, it may be time to consider a caregiver or additional assistance from family members:

  • Can they still take care of themselves and their hygiene?
  • Are they continuing to shower, brush their hair and teeth and get dressed for the day? If you see these personal hygiene items being neglected you will want to speak with them about it and see if they simply are having a hard time getting in and out of the shower – this can be remedied with a shower replacement.
  • Are they still able to complete their routine tasks, cook meals, walk the dog, etc…?
  • Is their home falling into disarray because they can’t keep up with the cleaning?

These are just a few items that may lead you to make a decision about their ability to care for themselves. Until a time comes that you realize they are unable to remain at home, using a medical alert pendant and making certain their home is age proofed will go a long way to providing a safe and secure environment.

Hints & Tips To Senior-Proof A Home

Serious injuries as the result of trips or falls are suffered by one in three adults over the age of 65 and many of these happen in the home. These falls can lead to broken bones and other injuries such as head trauma and even death.

Senior-proofing the home for items such as trip and fall hazards should be a matter of course for your aging relatives if they’d like to continue aging in place. Look for loose or slippery carpets and bathroom hazards. There are other items that need to be addressed as well.

Here are some items to consider if your parents want to continue living independently:

  1. Limit alcohol intake as this can lead to balance issues and cause a fall in addition to other health issues and potentially dangerous interactions with their medications.
  2. Have a full physical: Many falls could be prevented if your relatives have a full medical work up to address any issues that could lead to slip and fall accidents. Diabetes which has inherent poor circulation problems, low blood pressure and ear infections can also throw their balance off and lead to falls.
  3. Clean the medicine cabinet and track all medications. Clear out old prescriptions and outdated medications – over-the-counter and prescriptions. Make certain your relatives are taking the medications as prescribed and in the proper dosages. If the prescriptions are from different doctors, check with one of them or the pharmacist to make certain there is no risk of interaction.
  4. Stay fit and active: If your parents aren’t getting any exercise, they will lose muscle strength and tone and this will make it harder to walk and maintain their balance. The Centers for Disease Control recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week for those aged 65 and older. This means walking at a brisk pace, undertaking some aerobic activity such as swimming or a senior exercise class or bicycling. If your aging parent has health conditions that make it impossible to do this, ask a physical therapist to recommend some stretching exercises to help keep them in shape.
  5. Get their eyes checked: An annual eye exam is a must and eyeglass adjustments if necessary. An eye exam will catch any vision issues and proper eyeglass prescriptions will help to prevent falls if they have clear vision.
  6. Eat healthy meals: Cooking may become less of a priority as you age but getting adequate nutrients and vitamins are essential to good health. Additionally, ask whether they should be taking any supplements to address bone health issues or other vitamin deficiencies.
  7. Use a cane or walker: If your aging relatives are suffering from balance issues have them fitted for a cane or a walker. This will help them be mobile, but take care that they purchase a cane that is specifically suited to their height as one that is too short or too tall can lead to a trip or fall.

Even with all of the above steps implemented, you may still want to take it one step further and sign your parents up for a home medical alert system. With these devices, your parents will wear a medical emergency alert pendant; if they suffer a fall or other health emergency, all they need to do is push the button, a call is made to the home and if no answer is received, emergency medical personnel are dispatched.

Hints & Tips To Senior-Proof A Home

Serious injuries as the result of trips or falls are suffered by one in three adults over the age of 65 and many of these happen in the home. These falls can lead to broken bones and other injuries such as head trauma and even death.

Senior-proofing the home for items such as trip and fall hazards should be a matter of course for your aging relatives if they’d like to continue aging in place. Look for loose or slippery carpets and bathroom hazards. There are other items that need to be addressed as well.

Here are some items to consider if your parents want to continue living independently:

  1. Limit alcohol intake as this can lead to balance issues and cause a fall in addition to other health issues and potentially dangerous interactions with their medications.
  2. Have a full physical: Many falls could be prevented if your relatives have a full medical work up to address any issues that could lead to slip and fall accidents. Diabetes which has inherent poor circulation problems, low blood pressure and ear infections can also throw their balance off and lead to falls.
  3. Clean the medicine cabinet and track all medications. Clear out old prescriptions and outdated medications – over-the-counter and prescriptions. Make certain your relatives are taking the medications as prescribed and in the proper dosages. If the prescriptions are from different doctors, check with one of them or the pharmacist to make certain there is no risk of interaction.
  4. Stay fit and active: If your parents aren’t getting any exercise, they will lose muscle strength and tone and this will make it harder to walk and maintain their balance. The Centers for Disease Control recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week for those aged 65 and older. This means walking at a brisk pace, undertaking some aerobic activity such as swimming or a senior exercise class or bicycling. If your aging parent has health conditions that make it impossible to do this, ask a physical therapist to recommend some stretching exercises to help keep them in shape.
  5. Get their eyes checked: An annual eye exam is a must and eyeglass adjustments if necessary. An eye exam will catch any vision issues and proper eyeglass prescriptions will help to prevent falls if they have clear vision.
  6. Eat healthy meals: Cooking may become less of a priority as you age but getting adequate nutrients and vitamins are essential to good health. Additionally, ask whether they should be taking any supplements to address bone health issues or other vitamin deficiencies.
  7. Use a cane or walker: If your aging relatives are suffering from balance issues have them fitted for a cane or a walker. This will help them be mobile, but take care that they purchase a cane that is specifically suited to their height as one that is too short or too tall can lead to a trip or fall.

Even with all of the above steps implemented, you may still want to take it one step further and sign your parents up for a home medical alert system. With these devices, your parents will wear a medical emergency alert pendant; if they suffer a fall or other health emergency, all they need to do is push the button, a call is made to the home and if no answer is received, emergency medical personnel are dispatched.

Steps To Prevent Bathroom Accidents and Injuries

Slips and falls in the home are the biggest cause of injury for adults over age 65, and when you factor in that more than 250,000 individuals suffer falls in the bathroom, it can be a dangerous place for the elderly.

For the elderly, a slip or fall in the bathroom or shower can lead to broken bones and in rare instances, death. Consider how often you drop the soap while in the shower. Add loss of mobility to the mix for older adults and your relatives run a high risk of bathroom accidents. The best way to avoid these incidents is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Here are some steps you can take to make the bathroom and shower more senior-friendly
Remove unsafe bathtub and shower features. If there are no grab bars installed, individuals will grab whatever is handy, towel bars, tub fixtures, soap dishes, etc. These fixtures will not provide the stability needed.

  • Grab bars should be installed on the shower walls and even on the sides of the bathtub itself. Suction handle safety grips should never be used as these typically work themselves free. Handles and grab bars should be securely fastened into the walls and shower area.
  • Test to see if anything that looks as if it could be “grabbed” is actually able to bear weight.
  • Keep the floors dry to prevent falls. If the room is not carpeted, you will want to install non-slip bathmats around the room to soak up water and provide a place for sure footing. Don’t forget to put one in front of the toilet as well.
  • Handrails should be installed in several locations in the bathroom (and throughout the whole house).
  • While glass shower doors are decorative, they are not safe. If your aging relative grabs onto the door for support it might not be able to bear their w
    eight and if the glass breaks serious injuries can occur.
  • The door on the bathroom should remain unlocked and be left open in the event they fall and need to call out for help.  The best way to enhance bathroom safety is by equipping your aging relative with a waterproof medical alert pendant. If he or she suffers a slip or fall in the bathroom, at the push of a button emergency personnel will be dispatched.
  • If possible, remodel the bath and install a walk-in tub to make it easier for your aging relative to get in and out without having to straddle the side of the tub.
  • Simple changes such as using liquid soaps rather than bar soaps are also a safer bet for aging individuals.

Just because your parents are aging doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the relaxation offered by a soothing bubble bath or a long, luxurious shower, the room simply needs to be made more senior friendly.

Bathroom Hazards to Address; Aging In Place Seniors

Regardless of whether you’re young or old, the bathroom is typically one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. The danger does rise as the individual ages because the bathroom is typically a very small space that is prone to slippery floors and surfaces. Individuals aged 65 and older are one-third more likely than the rest of the population to suffer a slip and fall injury.

The bathroom can be retrofitted to make it safer and more accommodating to the limited mobility that seniors face. Here are several items to address when looking to make the family home more welcoming to the aging individuals’ needs.

  • Grab bars and hand rails: Grab bars should be installed in and around the bathtub/shower area. You may also want to install one near the toilet. If the aging relative has a difficult time going from a sitting to a standing position, consider installing a raised-seat for the toilet.
  • Non-skid surfaces: Bathtubs and showers should be equipped with a nonslip surface, regardless of the age of the person who uses it. There should also be a rug with non-slip backing to prevent falls when moving around the bathroom and getting in and out of the tub and shower. Loose rugs throughout the house should either be tacked down or retrofitted with non-slip backing.
  • Bathtub seating: In addition to grab bars, consider installing a bathtub chair for use by the aging individual. You can either set up a bathtub bench or install a chair for use in the shower. If your aging parent has a difficult time getting in and out of the bathtub itself, you may need to retrofit the tub with a shower stall or a tub with a minimal sized curb for them to step over.
  • Light it up: The bathroom, and every other room of the home, should be well it. Upgrade to higher wattage bulbs, install night lights in darkened hallways, put up touch lamp type fixtures in other areas as a handy way to light a dark staircase or hallway. Install night lights that turn on and off when the ambient light waxes and wanes.
  • Keep it close: Moving items to easy-to-reach shelves to remove any need for climbing on step stools is one way to help the senior. Switching from glassware for drinking cups, coffee mugs and dinner plates to plastic can remove the potential for cuts if the items fall from their hands to the floor.

Taking these steps to make the home more accommodating to the family member as he or she ages may allow him or her to stay in the home and age in place, a trend that is being embraced by more individuals. Don’t forget, that as your loved ones age, you will want to talk to them about the possibility of having a home medical alert device installed. With this equipment, the elderly individual wears a medical alert device such as a bracelet or pendant and if they suffer a fall or other medical emergency, at the push of a button, help is summoned. These devices, available for less than a dollar a day at LifeFone, offer peace of mind to both the elderly and their family.

Making Home Safe for Mom and Dad

The Christmas tree is down, the New Year’s Celebration is over, and now it’s time to get back to the daily routine you are so familiar with.  Nagging in the back of your mind, however,  may be the visit you just had with your parents and your concern for their safety as they age.

Spending longer periods of time with family during the holidays sheds some light on things that your parents did so easily before but seem to have trouble with at this stage of life. You may have noticed mom or dad slowing down and that their current home not as safe for them as it once was.  AARP  offers design and product suggestions for your home that can increase safety, comfort, and convenience. If you’re considering a new location for your loved one or can make some of these modifications on your own, these are helpful suggestions.