If you're planning to bring your senior parent home to live with you, it's important to make certain that your home is safe for a senior citizen to live in. You may not know this, but the rate of falls for senior citizens is quite high – one out of three Americans over 65 experiences a fall each year. Because older people have more brittle bones, even a short fall can have serious medical consequences for a senior citizen. The most important thing that you can do for your senior parent to help ensure their safety in your home is to reduce or eliminate the risk of falls. Here are the most important tips to help you do just that.
In The Living Areas
In living rooms and other common areas, the best thing that you can do is remove any obstacles from the walkway. Things that might be easy for you to avoid or step over, like loose rugs and extension cords that run across the floor, can be dangerous obstacles for senior citizens.
If you're running wires or cables across the floor, it's time to consider rearranging the furniture so that you can plug your television, modem, or other device in closer to the source. Alternatively, you may be able to run wires along the wall and use a staple gun to secure them. Remove any throw rugs and just walk on the bare floor or carpet for the time being – the extra decoration isn't worth the hazard. You should also put away small footstools and other objects that sit on the floor and might not be easily spotted.
In the Bathroom
The bathroom can be a very hazardous place – moisture and hard floors are a difficult combination. But there are some simple modifications that you can use to make it safer. Start by installing grab bars along the walls of the bathroom, including near the toilet and in the shower or bath. If you have a shower only, you can install a bath seat that will allow your parent to take a shower sitting down.
Whether it's a shower or a bath tub, some inexpensive nonskid adhesive strips can help prevent your parent from slipping while bathing. A rubber nonskid mat outside the tub or shower is a good idea as well. Finally, many senior citizens can benefit from a raised toilet seat. Most medical supply stores sell lightweight toilet seats that slide above the toilet – when someone other than the senior needs to use the toilet, the seat can easily be moved, then replaced.
On the Staircase
The layout of your house may not allow your senior parent to spend all of their time on one floor. If there's any area where you should go ahead and splurge, it's the staircase. The safest option for a senior with mobility issues is to install a stair lift – a motorized chair that connects to the staircase to carry your parent safely up and down. This virtually eliminates the risk of falling on the stairs. You can check out options at places like All-Star Lifts.
If your light switches are installed at the top of the stairs, then it's a good idea to install light switches downstairs as well. Alternatively, you can install motion-activated sensors that will turn the lights on with a wave of the hand. That way, whether your senior is going up or down, they'll be able to do it with adequate lighting.
In the Bedroom
A bed that's not too high is the best choice for a senior citizen. The easier the bed is to get in and out of, the less likely it is that your parent will fall. If your parent uses a wheelchair, choosing a bed that is about level with the wheelchair seat will make chair-to-bed transfers easier. An 18 inch bed height is appropriate for a person of average height. Go higher if your parent is especially tall and lower if they're especially short.
Don't use slippery bed linens like silk or satin; choose cotton or wool instead. Put a bedside table within easy reach of the bed and make sure to stock it with a light and a phone. Finally, install a nightlight between the bed and the bathroom to avoid falls in the middle of the night.
Preparing your home for your senior parent may sound like a lot of work, but it's worth it. You'll get to enjoy their golden years with them while ensuring their safety and comfort.