Informational articles about elder care for seniors, family members and caregivers.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Elder Proof the Home
Make the home a safe place for your elderly loved one.
falls usually occurred in her bathroom.She
frequently ended up bumped, bruised and scolded for not being more
careful.The time her head narrowly
missed the porcelain tub got her family to really take a look at what was
causing the problem.It turned out that
the doorway was unusually narrow and the door opened into the bathroom room
making it even more difficult for Marge to enter.In addition, the lever on the bathroom door
would constantly catch on Marge’s bathrobe sleeve as she made her way into the
room which threw her off balance.A
simple fix of changing the hinges so the door opened outward increased the
space and eliminated the possibility of the lever catching on her clothes.To the relief of Marge and her entire family,
the falls stopped.
Most elderly live in fear of
falling.Falls and other household
accidents put elders at risk and are often the reason staying at home independently
becomes impossible.Renovating the home so
it is a safe place allows your elderly loved one’s to age in place at home
rather than having to move to an institutionalize setting.Most folks think nothing of child-proofing
their home when their families are young.The same concept holds true for the aging. A couple of simple and relatively inexpensive
renovations can make all the difference in the overall safety for your elderly
The combination of smooth floor surfaces and water
make the bathroom one of the most dangerous rooms in the house, so it is important
that this room be updated to safely accommodate the elderly.
doors to open outwards so there is room to maneuver through thresholds.Doorways should be 32” to 36” in width to
accommodate those in wheelchairs or using walkers.
height of cabinets, countertops and mirrors a few inches to accommodate those
in wheelchairs or with walkers.Insulate
hot pipes under the countertops so those confined to wheelchairs don’t burn
themselves when seated near the sink.
·Allow 30” to
48” of open space in front of all fixtures in the bathroom, including sinks,
toilet, tub and shower.
bars parallel to the floor (or at a slight diagonal) next to the toilet and in
the tub and shower.Install a vertical
grab bar near the shower door for entering and leaving the shower stall.
seats to at least 17” or fit with seat extenders.Toilets should not be placed in small alcoves
or too close to vanities, shower stalls or fixtures so there is plenty of maneuver
room near the commode.
·Install a walk-in
tub with water sealed door or install tub grab bar to provide balance when
stepping into the tub. Get a stable 17” tub seat, a non-slid tub matt and a
hand held showerhead, all which make taking a shower safer and easier for the
·Turn on a
night light in the bathroom at night.
Kitchens need to be accessible to the elderly
which means re-arranging cabinets so commonly used items are in easy
reach.Trying to reach items in high
cabinets or crouch down to retrieve low for items on the bottom shelves can be
very difficult and so organizing the kitchen with elders in mind is a priority.
·Lower wall cabinets
by 3” to 5” making shelving accessible.Counter tops should be at 28”- 34” for wheelchair accessibility and at
40” for someone who has trouble bending.
used kitchen items to lower cabinet shelves.
access features such as rolling carts and baskets, lazy Susan devises and full
extension drawer glides.
glare-free surfaces so elderly can easily find handles and knobs.
shallow sinks so those in wheelchairs can reach inside.
the time a senior is in his 60’s, they need nearly 15% more light to properly
see.Adding more light to hallways and
stairs can help avoid falls which can be especially dangerous on stairs.
fixtures which use higher wattage bulbs and use brighter LED lights for added
lights that reflect light to the entire room without glare.
light switches which turn on and off when people enter or exit a room. Use
dimmer controls which can ease glare for elderly with light sensitivity issues.
remote controls for a centralize control center near the bed or easy chair.
from wall switches with large tilt plates or overhead pulls which are easy to
grasp.If a lamp uses a knob, be sure it
is large and turns easily. Wall switches
should be installed no higher than 48” from the floor so they are accessible to
someone confined to a wheelchair.
lights in kitchens to illuminate work spaces.
lights in hallways and bathrooms.
colored lamp shades that emit a brighter ambient light.
Floors & Stairs
is important to pay attention to the condition of floors and stairs.Slips and falls can be reduced dramatically
when basic precautions are put in place,
or area rugs with grip tape so they don’t shift or move.Never allow area rugs over wall to wall
carpeting as the rug will edges curl and not sit flat. Remove all area rugs
from top or bottom of stairs where a trip may result in serious injury. In many
cases it is best to remove area rugs altogether because they are often the culprit
when there is a fall.
furniture so there is large easy pathways to navigate through.Make sure all transitions from room to room
are flat and seamless.
·Get rid of all
clutter, electrical cords, hanging tablecloths, draping curtains or pulls from
blinds that could get tangled in feet and cause trips and falls.
pets out from underfoot.
·Ensure all steps
and stairs are even in height and are deep enough to place the entire foot for
·Be sure there
is a sturdy handrail available for all stairs and steps.
anti-slip tape on stair treads for extra traction.
carpeted stairs are properly installed and the carpeting is not sagging or
stair lift for people with mobility, strength or balance issues.
·Invest in well
fitting shoes with skid-free soles, no to low heels and Velcro straps. Discourage
walking on hardwood floors in stocking feet or soft slippers.
replacing tile or hardwood floors with safer non-skid flooring especially in
the bathroom and kitchen areas.
the cost of institutionalized elder care dramatically increasing, it is a good
idea to invest a little now to safeguard your elder’s home.Reduce the risk of accidents and falls for
your loved one and they can remain safe and independent at home, the place we
all prefer to be.
Kate McCarthy is Director of Operations
for HomeAid Health Care which provides services for the elderly who wish to
remain safe and independent at home.HomeAid is sister company to Prairie Home Assisted Living which has
served the physical, spiritual, mental and health needs of their Residents
since 1999.Together the two family
owned companies provide comprehensive care for the elderly in the Fox Valley of