Modifications can make a home safe for seniors

April 30, 2019

Originally sourced from Herald Standard





"People never feel more relaxed and comfortable than in their own home but as people grow older, their homes may need modifications.


“As you age, you can go through osteoarthritis and osteoporosis and this can lead to falling,’’ said Stephanie Christensen, outreach coordinator, who works in the Uniontown office of Senior Life, which offers health and supportive services to allow senior citizens to stay in their homes.


Seniors can have issues with eyesight and balance as well as some physical limitations due to illness or injury. This can also make them more likely to fall.

In fact, the National Council on Aging reports that one in four Americans aged 65 and older falls every year.


The NCOA recommends steps to prevent falls that include a balance and exercise program, checking vision and hearing as well as reviewing medications with your doctor or pharmacist for side effects.


But there are also steps you can take to make your home safe for yourself or someone you love.


That begins with a survey.


Christensen explained that Senior Life does home assessments for their members, saying, “We look to see if anything is unsafe or would cause any type of injury.’’

Check your house to look for areas that might contain hazards or need improved safety features.


You can begin by getting rid of clutter, including anything on stairs, such as laundry, shoes and books. Move extension cords out of walking areas and remove throw rugs from the floor.


“Throw rugs are usually aesthetic,’’ pointed out Christensen.


Make sure stairs are safe both inside and outside your house.


“Stairwells should be well lit,’’ said Christensen.


You can add colored tape to the edges of each step to help differentiate them, Scott A. Trudeau, an occupational therapist, advised in a blog for the NCOA. Put tape on the top and over the edge of each step.


Trudeau also suggested adding a second handrail to steps that have just one, noting it will help keep a person balanced.


Christensen said portable ramps can be purchased to allow easier access to different levels of your house, including going from outside to inside.


Outside your home, make sure your entryways are well lit and that your walkways are free of clutter. That includes cutting back or removing shrubbery that can grow over the sidewalks, repairing cracks or damage to sidewalks and stairs, and filling holes in the yard. Make sure your house numbers are visible from the street.


For those who want more safety features, a coded lock can be added to the front door so that only those who know the code can enter. If needed, signs can be purchased to let visitors know that oxygen is in use.


Back inside the house, Christensen said smoke detectors should be checked to insure they are working and batteries are fresh. Portable heaters should be examined and maintained for safety.


“We check the kitchen to make sure the stove is clear from things that can catch fire,’’ said Christensen.


Trudeau advises keeping commonly used items, such as dishes, glasses and seasonings, on lower shelves to avoid using step stools and chairs, and keep hand towels within easy reach to clean up spills immediately.


Christensen also recommends inspecting food in the pantry and refrigerator as well as medications. Throw out anything beyond its expiration date.


In the bathroom, Christensen said you can add a grab bar, hand-held shower head and a shower bench if needed to make bathing and showering safer. You can install raised toilet seats with or without rails.


You may want to make sure all your sinks throughout your house have user-friendly levers instead of knobs to turn water on and off. Levers can be installed to replace door knobs or purchase grippers, which are rubber covers, for door knobs to make them easier to turn.


Risers on couch legs can make it easier to stand up or invest in a lift chair that assists you in moving from a seated to a standing position.


Risers can also be put on beds while Christensen noted you can purchase a bed cane for support in getting in and out of bed. Fall mats, which offer padding, also reduce the risk of injury. Nightlights should be installed to light area for people who might get out of bed at night.


Trudeau recommends having a phone nearby the bed to be able to call for help if needed.


It takes a little time and investment, but modifications in the home can mean a safer environment and allow seniors to remain comfortable and independent ."



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