How can you keep your aging parents safe in their home? Learn the biggest hazards – and start making life easier for your mother and father. Highlights:
Prevent falls. They are the leading cause of injury-related death in Americans 65 and older. And most of them occur in the home. One reason: diminishing eyesight. "Upgrade the wattage of their light bulbs," says Jacques Aboaf, co-founder of LifeNet Medical Alert Systems. "It's very easy to do, but very overlooked." Also get rid of bunches in the carpet, which can contribute to tumbles by elderly adults who aren't high-stepping it any more. "A half-inch wrinkle in the carpet can create a stumble and fall," says Aboaf. Remove area rugs or firmly tape down their edges. And skip the floor wax. It's too slippery.
Rearrange the furniture. Move tables and chairs so your aging parents don't need to make quick, sharp turns, says Aboaf. "Take a look at the pathway they typically take."
Think about higher chairs. It can be difficult for older folks to lift themselves out of low-to-the-ground seats. They may fall as they struggle to get up.
Light pathways. You don't want aging parents with diminished eyesight to walk in the dark if they get up in the night. Create a "lighted pathway" for them, says Aboaf. "That means there's a switch they can turn on from their bed that will light the path from their bedroom to the kitchen." Install a turn-off switch at the other end. Lighting is also key on steps. "Very often there's only one set of handrails on a staircase, and at some point in the day, they're going to go up or down that staircase with the weak hand on that handrail," says Aboaf. It can't hurt to add another desk lamp while you're at it.
Buy good shoes for your parents. Make them snug enough that that they're secure, not floppy. And get them with a rubber sole that creates enough fiction that feet won't slide. "A lot of elderly folks have circulation issues, and they wear socks," says Aboaf. But they can be a slip-and-slide disaster.
Move the pots, pans, and bowls. Put them on a low shelf so your parents don't need to stretch, stand precariously on one tippy toe, or climb a ladder.
And after you've made your aging parents' home safer, you can tackle your own, too. Here's to home and personal safety, whether you're 50, 60 — or 90.
For more stories about how to keep your family safe, read: