As we grow older we want to maintain our health and minimize risks for injury. This is a constant balancing act in terms of decision making. How do we maintain dignity and respect loved one's wishes while keeping them safe. Sometimes people are resistant to change and do not want to adapt their lifestyle or home environment. I hear family members often say:
"She will never allow me to change that"
"The rugs will need to stay in place"
"He will be very upset if I get rid of that"
So, how do you have a home that your family member still loves and feels comfortable in while providing for safety and minimizing risks.
Here are some simple steps for making your home environment safer:
1. Identify the priorities first! What is really a concern or immediate need? Begin to discuss these areas or concerns in a kind way with your family member. Do not rant! Just keep things simple, concise, and positively bring up your concerns. Ask their opinion on how they feel that things can be changed in a positive way. Often times getting input and having them buy into the process will help to move things forward.
2. Focus on one aspect at a time! You may have a long list, but remember not to be overwhelmed by it all. Again prioritize your list and slowly form a plan on how to resolve each one. Too much change at one time can be upsetting or anxiety producing for your family member and for you.
3. Take note of more than just the surroundings. How does your family member manage their lifestyle and tasks. Do they use handrails? Could handrails be helpfula nd make things easier for them? Do they often times forget to use their cane or walker? Do they take their time standing or tend to rush? Do they try to carry too many things when walking? Often times people continue to do things the same way over the years not realizing that now common tasks present a risk for falls and injury. This can include carrying clothing up and down stairs, rushing to put groceries away, etc. Think about the tasks that your loved one performs in a day and try to ensure that they are adapting their routine in a positive way to avoid risk.
4. Ask for help when needed! A Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) can help to assess, prioritize and perhaps even identify risks that have gone unnoticed. Furthermore, GCM's can coordinate and provide referrals to outside vendors when needed and arrange for adaptive equipment, etc. Finally, people often times have an easier time listening to and taking advise from a professional!
5. Here are some general areas to focus on for those with ambulatory concerns:
- Remove area rugs and rugs with fringe as they are a tripping hazard. In addition, inspect any flooring for cracks, sharp edges, loose boards, loose or rippling carpet, and arrange to have repaired or replaced.
- Declutter the living spaces as less is more! More congestion means more chances for tripping or injury!
- Encourage family members to wear nonslip footwear and proper fitting clothing! Long pants, socks without treads, and slippers without the backs can all present a problem and be a recipe for injury.
- Widen pathways especially to bathrooms to avoid falls, skin tears, and tripping hazards. This is especially important if using a walker or cane. Consider a bedside commode or grab bars / hand rails in the bathroom if balance is a concern.
- Put night lights in hallways and bathrooms. Ensure visibility!
- Put items on lower shelves and within reach especially in the kitchen, bedroom, and bathrooms.
- Encourage the use of a walk in shower if possible. Avoid stepping over and into a tub. Use non slip shower treads to avoid slipping; ensure that they adhere and replace if peeling. Consider grab bars and hand rails in the shower to provide support and limit balance related issues. Nonslip bathmats are a must for drying off post shower.
Again,when in doubt contact a GCM for more information and guidance on home safety! Take time to make some simple changes ... you will thank yourself later!