By Anne Franklin, Senior Safety Advisor
Are you a member of the sandwich generation? You know – the generation that is raising children and looking after adult parents, too? If so, you’ve got a lot on your hands and on your mind, not the least of which is helping Mom and Dad stay safely in their own homes for as long as possible.
Ideally, your parents will have thought about, and may even have made, some modifications to their home to allow them to “age in place.” But if they have not, don’t panic. This month, and next, we’ll share ideas on things you can do, starting now, to help ensure their safety and comfort at home.
Safety is the No. 1 priority
Every year, about a quarter of adults age 65 or older fall, but less than half of them tell their doctor (or family) about the fall. Falling can have serious health consequences for older adults. Every year in the U.S., 300,000 senior adults are hospitalized for a hip fracture, and 95 percent of those are caused by a fall.
As the adult child, you may not always know what’s going on in your parents’ homes. So ask.
1. Have you fallen in the past year?
2. Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking?
3. Do you worry about falling?
If your parent answers “yes” to any of these key questions, they are considered at increased risk of falling. Talk to their healthcare provider about any medications or other possible causes and take actions at home to reduce their risk.
An easy recommendation to implement is removing tripping hazards: area rugs, extension cords, and grandkids’ toys. Make sure all paths within the home are clear of obstacles – no piles of newspapers, poorly placed furniture, items waiting to be stowed in the garage.
In the bathroom, add grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet. Grip strips in the bottom of the tub will help provide more secure footing. Consider a bath chair or other equipment to make it easier.
If your parents live in a two-story home, make sure there are handrails on both sides of the stairs. Check to ensure that existing handrails are firmly anchored so they won’t pull out of the wall in an accident.
Lighting is very important, as seniors often lose visual acuity. Install light bulbs with higher wattages and rethink where any floor laps might be placed. Install lights that can be turned on and off remotely or are motion activated. Light switches that glow in the dark, as well as night lights, can make those night time trips to the restroom or kitchen safer. Light the steps, especially outside the home.
Outside the home, inspect walkways and paths to ensure they are level, even and free of cracks or holes. Repair any steps that are broken, loose, chipped or otherwise in poor repair. Install hand rails on steps, ramps and walkways. During the winter months, ensure that walkways are treated with an ice melting compound and arrange to have paths shoveled.
Place a chair or bench by the door to provide a place for your parent to set down things they may be carrying into the home (groceries, mail) while they find their keys and unlock the door.
Consider installing new lever-type door handles, rather than knobs, throughout the home. Levers are easy for seniors to open, requiring nothing more than a downward motion with the hand, arm or elbow. Door knobs require grip strength, something many seniors lack. In an emergency, you don’t want your parents to be trapped by a door knob!
In this article, we’ve addressed some of the most common ways to prevent falls. Next month, we’ll take a look at other steps you can take to help ensure your parents can remain in their own homes, safely and comfortably, for as long as possible. Should you have any questions or need advice on helping your parents, give us a call at (606) 329-1344, stop by our showroom on Winchester Avenue in Ashland, or visit our website at tristatemobility.com.