As adults age, their risk of injury from falling and other accidents increases. As a result, it’s important to take the proper precautions — and make the right home updates — to keep them safe.
Below, we look at a few of the most important home safety considerations for aging parents.
#1: Reduce the Risk of Falling
According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults. In fact, a CDC report found that more than one in four older adults aged 65 and over falls each year, and one in five falls causes a serious injury.
Needless to say, it’s incredibly important to take the right steps to reduce fall risks in your home, such as installing grab bars in the bathroom, putting railings on both sides of the stairs, and getting rid of tripping hazards such as clutter and throw rugs.
While most falls are caused by a combination of factors, many are actually preventable. Some studies have even reported that between 35% and 40% of falls among older adults are due to environmental causes.
So what can you do to prevent falls at home and keep your elderly parents safe? Well, a good starting point is to conduct an informal risk assessment of the property. This involves going room to room in the home to identify and eliminate any slip, trip, and fall hazards.
Here are a few areas to pay special attention to in order to ensure home safety for seniors:
- Ensure that nonslip surfaces (such as rubber mats) are installed in the tub or shower
- Install grab bars in the tub or shower and beside the toilet and make sure they are well anchored
- Install a raised toilet seat and a bath seat in the shower if needed
Living Room and Bedroom
- Reduce clutter and any other obstacles such as loose wires and cords
- Remove throw rugs and scatter mats
- Have good lighting throughout the house and install night lights
- Make sure the path is clear between the bedroom and bathroom
- Consider using a cordless phone
- Install slip-resistant flooring
- Get a safe and stable kitchen stool with a safety rail for reaching high places
- Remove any tripping hazards
- Make sure stairs are well lit
- Have solid handrails on both sides of the stairway (and don’t forget to test the stair railing!)
- Install anti-slip tape or carpeting
- Look into stairlifts if needed
- Keep the front steps and walkway in good repair and free of snow, ice, and leaves
- Keep the front entrance well lit
These are just a few common safety measures to reduce the chance of slips and falls in your aging parents’ home. Keep in mind that, depending on their functional capacity and level of physical activity, you may have to take further measures to prevent falls.
#2: Keep Home Well Maintained
Many of the home tasks that we do throughout the day, such as getting on a step ladder to change smoke alarm batteries or keeping up with maintenance around the home, are much more difficult (and oftentimes dangerous) for older adults.
This can put them in a difficult position. Do they persevere through the challenge and possibly injure themselves? Or do they stop these tasks altogether and potentially make their living space more dangerous?
They shouldn't have to make that choice. It's possible to achieve home safety for older adults without having them give up their home. When parents reach an age where they can no longer keep up with home and property maintenance, it’s important to find ways to assist them with these kinds of tasks.
To start, we recommend creating a list of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to get a better understanding of how much support is needed. Keep in mind also that many home and property maintenance tasks are seasonal.
Next, figure out who will provide this kind of support to keep your elderly parents and their homes safe. Some families take on this responsibility themselves, creating schedules and systems to share the workload. If this is something you can manage, great! But it’s important to be realistic about how much care you can provide without harming your own health.
Luckily, there are plenty of third-party options as well. For example, you can hire an in-home service or even a cleaning service to perform housekeeping chores for your parents. Many of these services operate on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis, so you can find the cadence that works best for you and your aging parents.
#3: Use Smart Technology to Improve Home Safety for Seniors
Smart technology can bring ease, accessibility, enhanced safety, and other benefits to older adults, so it’s definitely worth looking into. For example, voice-controlled assistants like Amazon Echo and Alexa can be excellent tools to remind aging parents about taking their medication, turning on the lights, and more.
Many of these devices can also be managed by family members. So you can ask Alexa if your parents or grandparents have taken their medication, if they went to their doctor's appointment, and more — all from the comfort of your home.
You may also want to consider looking into smart security systems such as video doorbells with motion detection and keyless door locks, both of which can give older adults a sense of safety, added convenience, and peace of mind. Some smart security systems will even notify authorities and/or caregivers if they detect a problem.
Because of Notion’s multi-manager role (which allows both you and your parents to receive smartphone alerts), you can monitor and better understand the habits and safety risks of your elderly loved ones, and any problems will be brought to your attention sooner.
For example, when you install Notion sensors on the doors and windows of your or your parents’ home, you’ll receive an alert right on your phone when they’re opened or closed. Similarly, you can install a Notion sensor on your parents’ medicine cabinet to keep track of when and how often your parents are taking their medication.
You can use Notion’s sensors in many different ways: they can listen for UL-listed smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, detect water leaks when placed near bathtubs and water-based appliances, and monitor temperature changes.
As parents get older, it’s important to prioritize their well-being and make sure they’re safe, happy, and taken care of. We hope you feel better prepared to make sure your aging parents are safe and secure in their home.