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Are electric cords a safety hazard? Electric cords should not be lying across your floor in traffic areas. Keep them behind your furniture and away from open spaces. Anything that needs to be plugged in should be placed close to an electric outlet.
Is your home a clutter magnet? If so, make a change. Get rid of items you don't need, especially any clutter on your floors. Move or remove anything that could cause you to trip, slip, or fall while walking around your home. Look for piles, umbrellas, electrical or phone cords, etc. If you can’t get rid of something, place it next to a wall or in an “out of the way” location. Put things on shelves or in a storage area.
Are the rooms in your home well lit? When it comes to ensuring safety for people who are aging, the more light in your home the better. Poor lighting can invite missteps and injury.
You can improve the lighting in your home simply by increasing the wattage of the bulbs in your current light fixtures and lamps to allowable limits. You can also add nightlights along hallways and in the bedroom and bathroom. There are even removable wall lights that are simple to place in poorly lit areas.
All light switches and controls should be accessible and straightforward to use. Some people find “clapper” light controls helpful. You just clap your hands to turn lights on and off.
Do the staircases in your home have railings? There should be at least one railing that runs along the entire length of a staircase. Having handrails on both sides of a staircase is even better as you get older. Never walk up or down stairs without holding on to a handrail, even if you are carrying something with you. In addition, light switches should be located at both the top and bottom of the stairs. Always walk slowly up and down stairs and make sure the lights are on.
Is it easy to get in and out of the bed? If the height of the bed is too high or low, it may become an effort to get in and out of bed. You can raise the height of a low bed by placing blocks under the frame. You can remove the box spring or get a thinner mattress if a bed is too high.
Are all commonly used and needed items within reach once you are in bed? You should be able to turn bedroom lights on and off without getting out of bed. It helps to have a lamp on a bedside table. You also should have a flashlight by the bed in case of a power outage or to use when walking to the bathroom. Make sure there is bed-side access to a phone as well, either a cordless landline phone or cell/smart phone. Important phone numbers should be programed into the phone. Many smart phones have a “flashlight” function as well. A nightlight or two placed around the bedroom will add subtle lighting to the area.
Some people in their seasoned years would like to live independently for as long as possible in the homes where they have lived for years, raised families, and built memories. Others would rather move somewhere that may be easier to navigate, not as physically demanding, more conveniently located, and perhaps less expensive to maintain. The decision to remain put or move on is one most of us will ponder at some point as we head into our later years.
The aging process causes changes that can make everyday life around the house more challenging the older we get. These changes may make it difficult or even impossible to continuing living independently in our current “home” for as long as we may have hoped or planned. In some instances, the decision may be taken out of our hands.
Fortunately, there are steps we can take to help make our home setting an environment where we can live safely and independently for as long as possible. Some simple things can be done around most homes to create a comfortable and safe place to grow older. Programs are available that support aging in place and can help with home improvement projects that require major renovations. Contact your local Area Aging Agency for more information.
Take some time to walk through your home and search out things that may have the potential to become a problem for you now or down the road. Think about what your future needs might be. Here are a few things to ask yourself as you look around.
Are your rugs/carpets secured? Wall-to-wall carpets should be in good condition. They should not be uneven, wrinkled, bumpy, torn, or curled up along the edges. Area or throw rugs should be secured to the floor. You can attach most rugs to the floor with non-slip strips or double-sided tape made especially for this use. If you have no way to secure a rug, do not keep it around. It is especially important that rugs on stairways always remain firmly in place.
Is it convenient to manage the tasks of daily living throughout your home? Are everyday items easy to reach and use whenever needed? Dishes, clothing, towels, cleaning products, umbrellas, flashlights, writing supplies, cooking utensils, etc. should be within easy reach.
By thoughtfully organizing and storing everyday items, you can help keep accidents from happening. For example, moving items to lower shelves or cabinets will eliminate the need to use a stool or chair to reach them. It is a good idea to have a sturdy, senior-friendly step ladder around though, just in case.
Is your furniture sound, sturdy, and appropriate for people of all ages? Repair or replace furniture that is broken, unreliable, wobbly, or weak. Make sure your chairs have seats at a height easy for people to get in and out of without much effort. Chairs with arms offer more stability as well. Furniture should be arranged around your home so there is plenty of room to get around it.
Are there railings on the stairs leading to your home’s front, side, and/or back doors? If not, add them. It is vital as we get older to have something sturdy to lean on when walking up or down stairs.
Are the stairs in good condition? The stairs leading to your front, side, and/or back door should not be damaged or broken in any way. Immediately repair or replace stairs that become cracked, chipped, loose, weak, etc. You may also want to mark the edge of each step with colored or reflective tape to make it easier to distinguish one step from the next.
Is the door’s threshold noticeable and simple to maneuver? It can be difficult to discern the change in height of a raised threshold, especially with diminished eyesight. Painting the threshold a contrasting color can help make it more obvious.
Is there enough light to illuminate the stairs and door area? Being able to see clearly as you climb the stairs and open a door to your home is imperative at any age. Sensor lighting has become very popular because it eliminates the need to leave outdoor lights on. Sensors detect when someone enters an area and the lights automatically turn on.
Are your kitchen cabinets easy for people of all ages to reach? Our flexibility, reach, and range of motion change as we age. It can be helpful to keep the items you use most often within easy reach. You may want to keep some frequently used items on the counter or hang them from hooks on the wall.
Is it difficult to use your stove controls or adjust your water faucet? It is important that water faucets and stove controls are easy to turn and use without exertion. You should be able to quickly regulate the temperature of your stove, and you want to know for certain it has been turned off when not in use. Likewise, you want to be able to adjust the temperature of the water coming out of your faucet. It is easy to burn yourself when water is hotter than expected.
Are the walking surfaces around you house safe? It is easy to trip while walking along unruly, uneven, or rutted walkways. The surfaces you use to walk to and from your home should be level and without obstructions such as potholes, pits, cracks, or protruding weeds or plants. Always make necessary repairs as soon as needed.
Do your bathroom rugs have non-skid bottoms? Beauty is not the most important detail when it comes to a bathroom rug. Without the non-skid detail, a beautiful rug can easy slide out from under your feet and cause a fall or accident.
Are there grab bars by your toilet and in your shower/tub? Grab bars may not be the most desired or visually pleasing addition to your bathroom, but grab bars can help you avoid falling. Falls in the tub or shower are a common cause of injuries that lead to a loss of independence for older people. Be sure bathroom grab bars are securely attached to the wall and use them every time you get in and out of the tub or shower. Grab bars by the toilet make it much easier to get up and down.
Is it hard to enter and exit your tub/shower? Various models of tubs and showers are designed expressly to make it easier for older people to get in and out. They include flat entries and benches for sitting. Some have non-slip surfaces to help eliminate the threat of falling. Adding a rubber bath mat or adhesive non-skid decals to the bottom of any tub or shower will also help keep you from falling.
Is your toilet seat too low? Rising from a seated position becomes more difficult with age. The toilet seats in many homes are lower than most chairs, which can make using the toilet difficult at you get older. There are newer toilet models available that are taller than the standard toilet. Taller toilets are a nice feature even in homes with young occupants. Raised seats are also available to make it easier to use a toilet.