Baby Boomers may dream of owning a second home as they head into their retirement years. But instead of caring for a vacation house, adult children often find themselves helping aging parents avoid safety pitfalls in the family home.
Valerie and Bob Megargel, owners of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving East King County and communities such as Redmond, said, “Many seniors and their families don’t think about the fact that homes must adapt to the changing needs of seniors as they age, until an accident happens.”
A proactive safety checklist for seniors and their families might include the following:
• Examine dark pathways, corners and other areas where seniors regularly read or walk. Install proper lighting to prevent eye strain or falls.
• Avoid monochromatic color schemes. Contrast can help seniors with failing eyesight better navigate their home. For example, large red or blue buttons over hot and cold water faucets will help to prevent dangerous mistakes. A dark green or brown toilet seat and vinyl tape around the shower will make those features more easily distinguished.
• Look for ways to reorganize objects. Mom always put the stew pot under the stove to keep the kids from breaking it. Maybe now it belongs on an easy-to-reach shelf next to the stove. If a hallway table that has been a permanent fixture is becoming a dangerous obstacle, relocate it.
• Look behind closed doors. Many seniors close off parts of the house they no longer use. Check those areas for mold or water damage and don’t close vents to crawl spaces.
• Look for ways to simplify the senior’s life. Talk to your parents about why and how they do things and what make those chores easier. Rather than a heavy mop and bucket, invest in a lightweight, all-in-one mop. Convert single-bulb light fixtures to multiple bulbs so if one bulb burns out, they won’t be left in the dark.
• Consider security. Lock-in switches on thermostats and stoves will keep seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease from harming themselves. A cordless intercom may also help them manage their environment.
• Watch for signs that a senior is adapting his or her behavior to the environment. Look for towel bars or window sills that are pulling away from the wall or shower curtains that have torn because seniors have grabbed on to them for balance.
• Make entries safe. Keep sidewalks and steps in good repair or eliminate steps. Make sure doors can be set to stay open while seniors carry things in and out. Install remote control locks.
• Is clutter taking over? Messy conditions such as piles of magazines can be a falling hazard. Area rugs can also be slippery and dangerous.
For more information or to request a home safety review from Home Instead Senior Care, call (425) 454-9744.