When your aging parent lives alone, it’s only natural that you’ll worry about their safety. However, there are many things you can do to mitigate these concerns. Here, we list out ways to create a safe environment for aging parent.
Assess Potential Hazards in Your Home
The following tips seek to minimize potential hazards in your home, such as falls, allergies, and other household accidents.
- Maintain a clutter-free environment. Try to keep things as streamlined as possible to minimize the risks of falls.
- Change bed linen regularly, and clean other fabrics to remove potential sources of dust and mold.
- Either remove rugs or make sure their edges are securely tacked to the ground to reduce the risk of your parent tripping over them.
- Avoid using slippery wax to clean your floors and wipe up all spills as soon as you can.
- Electrical wires and cords should be bound up safely and tucked up so that they do not block walking spaces.
- Arrange your furniture so that your parent has an unobstructed path to move. All hallways and doorways should be obstruction free.
- Ensure good lighting throughout the house, especially in places such as stairs. Ideally, the staircase should have 2 switches – one at the top landing and the other at the bottom.
- Leave a nightlight on in your parent’s room at night so that they always have illumination in case of emergencies, or if they need to get up for a glass of water or use the bathroom.
- In the kitchen, sharp knives should be stored in a secure rack. Heavier objects should be stored at waist level so that they are more accessible.
- Conduct regular check-ups of the house to maintain electrical work, trash pick-up, and plumbing.
The ideas below help to make your parent’s home safer and should be tailored according to their specific needs. You may notice that most of these modifications have to do with the bathroom, which is an especially dangerous area for those who are aging.
- Install smoke alarms and keep a fire extinguisher at the ready. Ensure that your parent is able to use it safely.
- Install handrails in the bathroom, such as around the bathing area and toilet. Rails can also be installed around the stairs.
- Adhesive strips on the bathtub and shower floor can minimize slipperiness.
- You might also want to consider removing locks in bathroom doors to prevent them from accidentally locking themselves in. Alternatively, choose a lock that can be opened from either side.
- If your parent has a compromised sense of sight, you can help by labeling certain parts of the house – such as the boundary between the kitchen and living room, or the toilet – clearly.
One way to keep track of your parent’s safety is to establish strong communication with them. Make sure that they know how to use their phones and can be contacted in case of emergencies. Have an emergency plan with them for events such as a fire. Above all, be honest with yourself about your parent’s capacity to care for themselves. Sometimes, it might be best if they move in with you, or – if they need memory care, consider an assisted living community.