The Senior Adviser
Making the Home Safe for Seniors
Ask any senior where they want to live for the rest of their life and chances are they will say their own home. Many seniors are so adamant about remaining in their own homes that they do so even in circumstances that are unsafe. Frequently, this situation is of greater concern to the seniors’ adult children than it is to the seniors themselves.
These seniors’ adult children – the ones who often end up as their caregivers – are referred to as the “sandwich generation,” caught between providing for their own young families and assisting their aging parents. They are already stretched to the limit, with one quarter of all U.S. adults currently caring for an aging parent, relative or spouse. And this strain shows no sign of easing. By the year 2030, 70 million Americans – about 20 percent of the population – will be over the age of 65.
The person responsible for providing informal care for family members is typically referred to as a “family caregiver.” Often, this person is the family’s eldest daughter or the grown child who lives the closest to the parent or relative needing care.
For adult children who suddenly find themselves in the role of providing care for an aging parent, the following practical suggestions can help your loved one live at home more safely:
- Arrange furniture so that crossing a room is not like maneuvering through an obstacle course.
- Place electrical cords away from walking areas.
- Throw away expired medications.
- Use nightlights in hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Make sure there is a shower seat in the bathtub.
- Install grab bars and non-skid tape in bathroom tubs and showers.
- Make sure there are fire and carbon monoxide alarms and test them regularly.
- Have your loved one wear low-heeled, well-fitting shoes that provide good traction.
Becoming a family caregiver brings its share of challenges and rewards. Since most older adults prefer to remain in their own homes, home safety is an important consideration for any care provider. If you are looking to making safety improvements to your parents’ home, make sure your parents are involved in the decision making process. It is important to never lose sight of the fact that it is still their home.