Tips for caregivers and seniors on safety issues in the home

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By Angela Rocheleau

One of the biggest challenges of aging at home independently is the threat of slips and falls in the home. There are measures that seniors or their family members can take to minimize the risk of accidents in the home that can lead to hospitalization, rehabilitation and perhaps the inability to continue to live independently. As you begin your plans for this fall season, why not add a safety check to your list for the elders in your life.

There are some very basic recommended tips to review first. Regular exercise will keep muscles and bones strong and will assist with good balance. Proper management of medications and their side effects will help avoid falls due to drowsiness or light-headedness. Regular eye examinations will help to ensure that the senior can see all the hazards in his or her path. Lastly, proper footwear with good support and non-slip soles are a must for safety.

The next steps are to assess the home using a checklist. Many area organizations can provide tools or even offer a free in home assessment. These agencies include certified home care agencies, local senior centers and private home care agencies. Check out the websites of these organizations as many have tools and information that you can use to do your own safety check.

Things to look for when doing a safety check include proper lighting, handrails on both sides of a stairs, steps and carpeting in good repair, as well as clutter in pathways. Be sure to do an assessment of all living areas, especially the bathroom. Is there enough lighting? Are the lights easily accessible? Does the senior have a cordless or cell phone that is easily accessible for emergencies? How about considering an emergency response system?

Remember to check that electrical cords are out of the way and throw rugs are removed or secured to the floor with double faced tape. Take the time to move frequently used items to shelves that are at waist to shoulder height. Keep outside walkways clear of leaves, snow and ice.

As you can see, there are many things to consider. Start today by having a discussion with your family about conducting a safety check in your home or the home of a loved one. Take the time to contact area elder network agencies to see what free resources they have available to assist with this process. Schedule appointments for a vision check. Call the local senior center and get a schedule of the exercise programs they offer. This may be a great opportunity to introduce a home care agency to your loved one to assist with their daily housekeeping tasks or personal care needs such as bathing. Assistance in the home with these daily needs may help them to avoid slips and falls. These tips cannot guarantee that you or your loved one will never have a fall, but being proactive with these tips can go a long way to minimizing the risk.

Angela Rocheleau has 25 years of experience in the home health care industry focusing on leadership roles for the past two decades. She serves on the Better Business Bureau board of Central New England and the Executive Board of the Mass Council for Home Care Aides.