This piece was written for SafeWise by the medical alert experts at Medical Guardian.
There are several self-care tasks we do every day without thinking twice about them, like showering and getting dressed in the morning. But these tasks known as activities of daily living become more difficult, and even dangerous, for seniors living alone. While this directly affects one’s ability to safely age in place, it’s important to remember that seniors are not the only ones affected by these challenges.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, seniors who struggle with activities of daily living typically require as much as 11 hours of care per day, placing an immense responsibility on caregivers.
Assisting loved ones with these daily tasks can certainly take its toll, but luckily, there are home safety tools available that allow seniors to maintain their independent lifestyle while helping caregivers like you ensure the safety of your loved one, even if you can’t be there for them 24/7.
Avoiding Slips in the Bathroom
Due to slippery floors and the need to step over thresholds into bathtubs or showers, it’s no surprise that the bathroom poses the greatest amount of senior safety hazards. Close to 200,000 accidents occur in the bathroom every year, but the good news is that most of these accidents are preventable.
To ensure that your loved one doesn’t have an accident while bathing, install these home safety tools in your loved one’s bathroom:
Walk-in shower. The most common accident occurs when seniors slip while climbing in and out of the shower or bathtub. Investing in a walk-in shower will completely eliminate this safety hazard.
Transfer bench. This is a great, cost-effective alternative to a walk-in shower. Now all your loved one has to do is sit down on the bench, and then safely slide into the shower or bathtub.
Grab bars. Although 70 percent of seniors use towel bars to help them get in and out of the shower or bathtub, these were not meant to support weight. Installing sturdy grab bars next to and inside the shower or bathtub is the perfect solution.
Raised toilet seat. If your loved one has difficulty getting back on their feet, a raised toilet seat will provide extra balance and support.
Non-slip mats. Replace any area rugs within the bathroom with non-slip mats as these will give your loved one better traction on the slippery floor. Ideal spots for these mats are inside and outside of the shower or bathtub, and by the toilet and sink.
Preventing Accidents in the Bedroom
Certain health conditions like arthritis and Parkinson’s disease make it extremely difficult for seniors living alone to get dressed and undressed every day. This challenge is only complicated by the fact that most of the time spent in the bedroom is during the early morning and late evening hours when it may be difficult for your loved one to see clearly.
Luckily, something as simple as adding more lamps and nightlights to the bedroom and providing your loved one with these affordable dressing tools will help them stay safe in the bedroom:
Bed rails. Falling out of bed can result in serious injuries for older adults. Not only will a bed rail prevent accidents, but it will also give your loved one extra support when getting out of bed in the morning.
Standing on a step stool can be dangerous for seniors as they can easily lose their balance and fall. A reacher is a simple solution that will help your loved one reach clothing or objects on a high shelf.
Sock-aids. Putting on socks becomes a daunting task for anyone suffering from physical limitations, but sock-aids make this task easy and stress-free.
Long-handled shoe horns. Similar to sock-aids, long-handled shoe horns simplify the task of putting on shoes, especially if your loved one has difficulty maintaining their balance when bending over.
Dressing sticks. Beneficial for seniors who just had surgery, dressing sticks can be used to pull up pants and zippers, fasten buttons, remove socks and push off clothing.
Since more than 60 percent of senior deaths result from accidents on stairs, one of the best things you can do is have all the essential rooms on a single level so your loved one doesn’t have to worry about climbing up or down stairs.
But if this isn’t possible, adding these extra supports to the staircases in and around your loved one’s home will help keep them safe as they age in place:
Stair lifts. This home safety tool completely eliminates the possibility of your loved one falling up or down stairs. When looking for stair lifts, check to be sure that it is battery powered so it will continue to work during a power outage.
Sturdy handrails. Inspect handrails to see if they are stable and in good shape. You may want to add handrails on each side of the staircase and in hallways for extra support.
Non-slip treads. To prevent falls, attach non-slip treads to each step. Fix any loose or broken steps, and if the steps are carpeted, make sure the carpet is firmly attached so it won’t cause your loved one to trip.
Maintaining your loved one’s mobility goes beyond ensuring their safety on stairs, however. Canes and walkers are other great solutions that help your loved one stay on their feet, and they even help maintain and improve mobility. To give your loved one traction on smooth flooring, place rubber tips on the bottom of the cane or walker, and clear all pathways so your loved one can safely walk from room to room.
Guaranteed Protection with a Medical Alert System
While these home safety tools greatly promote senior safety and independence, it’s important to remember that accidents can still happen – anytime, and anywhere. While most older adults view their homes as safe havens, six out of every ten falls occur within the home, resulting in serious injuries and even bigger concerns for you, the caregiver.
That’s why it’s so important to ensure your loved one’s safety with a medical alert system from Medical Guardian. In the event of a fall, medical emergency, house fire, power outage, or home invasion, all your loved one has to do is push a button and they will have access to immediate help. Plus, you can rest assured that in the event of an emergency, Medical Guardian’s monitoring center will contact you directly to keep you updated on your loved one’s condition.
Providing Independence for Seniors & Caregivers
It’s not uncommon for caregivers to feel pressure to be there for a loved one 24/7, but it’s important to remember that you need to take care of yourself first in order to provide the best care for an aging loved one. That’s why these home safety tools are great resources for seniors and caregivers alike. Just by taking these simple steps, your loved one can continue living independently, and you can enjoy the freedom and peace of mind that comes with knowing that they are protected in their home – what could be better than that?