If your elderly parent or relative is at an age when they’re not quite ready for an assisted living home and still want their independence, but also aren’t as coordinated and observant as they used to be, knowing how to keep them safe can be tough. But there are steps you can take to make the current home your parent lives in and enjoys more suited to their present state, without making them feel like you’ve completely altered their house. Here are ways to make your elderly relative’s home safer.
Add mats and grab bars in the bathroom
The bathroom can be a dangerous place at any age but poses particular hazards for the elderly. If your relative’s bathroom has tile floors, add mats around areas that tend to get wet, like the tub and sink. Make sure they have non-slip, sticky bottoms with very good grips. Also, consider adding a grab bar by the bathtub and toilet to help your relative get up from these areas.
Check toilet and bathtub heights
Many bathrooms have high bathtubs because they create a nice aesthetic, but it’s difficult for an elderly person to climb into these. If your relative’s tub is too high, add a stable, durable step next to it to help with entry. Also, consider the toilet height. If it’s quite low, an elderly person might struggle to sit down. Grab bars can come in handy again here, but you could also add an elevated seat.
Staple down rugs
While rugs can provide nice friction on otherwise slippery tile and hardwood floors, if they move, they can also be hazards. Staple down all rugs. If the staircase is hardwood, consider adding a runner to it that you also staple down for safer climbing.
Add timed or motion sensor lights to hallways
Add timers, dimmers, and/or motion sensors to hallways. It could be a good idea to schedule the lights in the hallway leading to the restroom and other areas an elderly person may need during the night. You can add dimmers to these so as to not use too much energy throughout the evening.
It’s very important that stairways are well lit at night. Install small lights that run the full length of the stairs and make sure each step is properly illuminated at nighttime.
Consider bed height
A high bed might look nice, but it increases the chances that an elderly individual falls when trying to get out of bed. Have your relative sit on the side of the bed. If his feet cannot touch the ground, add a step next to the bed.
Are there certain appliances your relative uses regularly, like coffee pots and crockpots? Set these on timers so that they automatically go off at a certain hour each day (perhaps around 30 minutes after your relative may be done using them) in case the user forgets to manually shut them off.
Rearrange kitchen items
Consider the items your relative uses on a daily basis and put some time into finding safe locations for them. Items that are too high up and require a far reach increase the chances that an elderly person slips and falls. Move things like coffee mugs, pots, pans, and other things your relative uses several times a day to lower cabinets.
Add rubber mats to the kitchen
The kitchen can be another slippery area, especially as elderly people become more prone to spills. Add rubber mats near the stove, sink, and any other area where water or oil is used regularly.
Replace or cover sharp-edged furniture
Look in the living room, dining room, and office area. Here you’ll probably find sharp-edged coffee tables and desks that can be quite hazardous should someone fall. Either cover sharp corners with soft bumpers or replace this furniture entirely with some with round corners.
Make sure your elderly relative has plenty of room to maneuver around his home. Remember that older individuals aren’t as spry or flexible and need more space to make turns. Rearrange furniture if you have to create more space.
Do a walkthrough
Spend an hour with your elderly relative, and have him walk you through a day in his life—showing you his regular routine. This way, you can spot potholes and danger zones and adjust accordingly.
If your elderly relative still wants independence and is still capable of living alone, you can take some steps to improve his safety.