Is your home safe for older guests?
If you expect older visitors this season, check your home for hazards. Older adults often have impaired balance and vision. This makes them prone to falling, especially in new surroundings. And fragile skin and bones can mean double trouble if someone does take a spill. Here are some tips:
Early darkness and wet walkways can add to risk of a fall. Turn on outdoor lighting and make sure stairs have a sturdy handrail.
Clear the floor! Store away toys, piles of books. Avoid slippery wax floor finishes and tape down area rugs.
Eliminate extension cords from walking areas.
Be mindful of fire hazards. If you're plugging in an extra heater, place it at least three feet from anything flammable.
Review seat height. Seating that is low, angled back, or lacks side arms can pose problems for elders. Add a firm cushion to raise the seat.
If your guest must use stairs, make sure they are well lit, without glare or strong shadows. Consider night-lights, and point out where light switches can be found.
Install night-lights to light the path to the bathroom. Also provide an easy-to-reach bedside lamp.
Check bed height. If it's too high, provide a platform step. If too low, add risers. (These are sturdy plastic "cups" that raise each leg of a bed. Also useful for couch or chairs.)
Clear the floor! Remove throw rugs. Ensure pet bowls and toys aren't underfoot.
Avoid scald burns. Put red electrical tape on hot water knobs as a reminder to take caution. (Turning the water heater down is no longer recommended because bacteria can breed at lower temperatures.)
Prevent slipping by placing a large, nonskid mat in tub or shower. A shower chair makes for a safer shower. Check the thrift store or borrow a neighbor's.
Will older relatives be visiting?
It's wise to give your home a safety once-over so your holiday is not marred by an injury. As the North Shore and Chicago experts in family caregiving, we at Options for Aging can help you get oriented to the special needs of older adults—particularly if your loved one has dementia. Give us a call at 847-868-1445. You don't have to do this alone.