We’re experiencing one of the wettest summers in many, many years in our community. As I went slip sliding down the garden path, I was reminded of the importance of keeping our seniors’ home free from hazards that can lead to a fall — with potentially disastrous results.
Let’s face it, most homes have numerous points that can be hazards or become a danger for any of us over time if not kept in good repair. That’s especially true for senior loved ones who might not be as steady as in their younger years.
We know many seniors want to stay in their homes to age in place as long as possible. In order to achieve that, family caregivers should try to keep the home of their senior loved ones free of hazards and in good repair.
Indoor Home Tips
Many seniors’ homes have areas indoors where changes could be made to improve the level of safety and reduce the risk of falls. Here are some to consider.
- Keep all areas free from clutter that could cause a trip and fall, including throw rugs, newspapers, electrical cords, pet toys or bowls and any other loose object innocently left on the floor for pick up later and then forgotten.
- Carefully place furniture pieces in the room to prevent having to take the ‘long way’ around to find a comfortable seat. Keeping furniture an adequate distance apart to allow free movement and room to maneuver a cane, walker or even a wheelchair will be helpful now and in the future. If your senior is using a walker, make sure to choose the proper walker height.
- Secure any loose flooring, keeping all walking surfaces in good repair, so no nails are popping out, no floorboards are loose and all carpeting is free from bumpy spots to trip up seniors. If floors are slick or shiny, apply a nonskid surface to lessen likelihood of slipping.
- Be sure there are handrails on both sides of stairways, well lit hallways and stairs, and that all stairs are free from any objects. Be sure carpet is not too worn that it becomes slippery on the treads of stairs.
- In the bathroom:
- Check the condition of nonskid mats or stickers (or if some need to be installed).
- Determine if grab bars are still steady or if some need to be installed.
- Look over the plumbing to find any sources of leaks that could result in a wet floor and thus a fall.
- Check any shower equipment, such as a shower bench, to be sure it is still in good working order and won’t result in a fall.
- Medical equipment does wear out so should be examined regularly to see if it’s in need of repair.
Outside Home Tips
For seniors who like to spend time out in the yard, take a look at areas where they may go and the hazards they may encounter.
- Especially in wet weather but all year round, be sure that front porch, stairs and all entry points are free from trip hazards such as rocks, fallen branches, moss, penetrating nails or loose boards. If you have harsh winters, it is time to do a good evaluation of any winter damage to porches, steps and thresholds to be sure they are all secure and in good repair. Are the railings and handrails still sturdy?
- Are sidewalks clear from broken cement, root penetration from nearby trees or shifting cracks? Are sidewalks covered in mold or slime that could lead to a slip and fall? If so, it is time for a good pressure wash on all walking surfaces. Getting the mail from the mailbox or the newspaper from the lawn should not be a dangerous adventure.
- Are all tree limbs and shrubs pruned to prevent having to duck under or around limbs to have a clear path? It may be time to do some pruning to prevent accidents.
- Do you have a garden path or makeshift walkway to flowers or plants that is still covered with a bed of leaves that are now wet and slimy that could lead to falls?
- Is the garage or carport access blocked with items left there during the winter that now need some attention? It is time to clear out boxes or items that haven’t been returned to their usual storage places so that walking to the car, water heater or garden tools is not a hazard.
- Are the hoses accessible in case your senior decides to water something? Are the gutters clean or a source of leaking water creating puddles in dangerous places?
- Is the lighting on the porch or in the backyard adequate to illuminate all walking areas and are the light bulbs in good working order? It may be time to check out and change any missing source of light.
- Is access to garbage receptical free and clear so that when your senior takes out the garbage they can carry a bag or box out to the trash can and get back inside safely?
An ounce of prevention (or elbow grease) in home repair is worth a pound of cure — especially when that could be fractures and hospital visits!
If you can’t do some of the work you identify as needed, there are many home repair professionals and handyman services you can use which could be a great benefit for long distance caregivers. This is not a good place to let things slide and hope for the best!