If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or seek care at an emergency room.
As we age, most of us would prefer to remain independent in the comfort of our familiar home, if given the option. But, aging adults are more vulnerable to injury and illness. This is why loved ones need to help them find ways to reduce risks in and around the home.
Why aging loved ones are more susceptible to injury at home.
Growing older may pose more mental and physical challenges as we experience changes in memory, vision, hearing, overall strength, balance, and mobility. It can be hard to identify—or accept—changes in our abilities. So it’s important to have a support system that can help us find ways to age safely.
Falls are the seventh leading cause of senior deaths in the U.S.
Most commonly, the elderly are at a much higher risk of severe falls. In fact, falls are the seventh leading cause of senior deaths in the U.S. And, almost all fall-related deaths happen to those who would be considered geriatric. Even falls that don’t result in death can be serious. 30 to 50 percent of falls end in a major injury. That’s why it’s critical to improve home safety for older adults earlier rather than later.
Our aging loved ones are at a higher risk of serious falls, burns, infections, and other injuries at home. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, geriatrician Dr. Khalil shares 5 ways you can ensure your elderly loved ones are safe as they age in place: https://bit.ly/3xWubw8.
Aging adults are also more susceptible to burns as a result of forgetting to turn off the stove, leaving food cooking for too long, or heating the wrong burner. And, not wanting to confess to minor injuries, our elderly loved ones may be more vulnerable to infections that develop as a result of a small bump that’s left untreated.
How to improve home safety for older adults.
1. Create a safer environment.
The most effective way to prevent serious injury or fall-related accidents is to remove tripping hazards from the home. You can do this by:
- Removing loose items. Throw rugs can easily curl on the corners or move when you walk on them, especially if they lack a rubber backing that sticks to the floor. Other items may also create fall hazards, like extension or electric cords and objects that could cause tripping. Taking them out of the home can help to make the home fall-safe.
- Decluttering. Picking up loose piles of newspapers, mementos, clothing, and other items lying around the house helps to eliminate things to trip over. It may be a good idea to collect items for storage if there are belongings that your elderly loved ones would like to hold on to.
- Improve lighting. As we age, many of us begin to experience changes to our vision and hearing. By adding or improving the lighting in our aging loved ones’ homes, we can ensure adequate lighting that helps them to see more clearly. This could include using brighter light bulbs, installing nightlights into halls and bathrooms for nighttime use, or perhaps installing motion detection lighting.
2. Establish healthy routines.
In addition to making accommodations within their physical environment, you can help improve home safety for loved ones by helping them to create habits that keep them at their best, both mentally and physically. Whether you’re 65 or 85, we all benefit from healthy lifestyle choices that include:
- Good sleep
- Well-balanced nutrition
- Physical activity in any form
- Social interaction
- Mindfulness or meditation
3. Help them manage medications safely.
Sometimes, too many medications can impair our cognitive or physical abilities as we age. That’s why it’s important that your aging loved one receives medical care from a trusted primary care provider who is mindful about how a particular prescription or dosage may impact their quality of life.
In addition, you can help improve home safety for older adults by helping them manage the medications they do take, by:
- Throwing away old or expired medications.
- Keeping medications in their original containers so they don’t get mixed up.
- Helping elderly loved ones organize their medications in a weekly pillbox to minimize the risk of double-dosing.
- Asking their pharmacists to use large-print labels to make medication directions easier to read.
- Encouraging them to take medications in a well-lit room.
4. Empower them to be independent while supporting them.
We all have a right to the best possible quality of life. As the loved one of an elderly adult, you can help to keep them feeling supported and confident by remaining involved in their day-to-day activities. Check-in on them frequently, both to supervise that they’re living within a safe environment and also to demonstrate how much you care for them.
If you notice areas where they may be struggling, consider enlisting help for specific tasks, such as cooking or laundry. It can be hard for our elderly loved ones to relinquish some independence, such as driving. But by supporting and encouraging them in the ways they can remain independent, you can help them understand that you’re on their side while helping them prevent medical emergencies at home.
5. Find a compassionate care team to use as a resource.
Finally, the right care team is critical to improving home safety for the older adults in your life. A trusting relationship with a care provider ensures they have access to the medical resources they need, as well as support services that can help them age in place, including home inspections and tips for adaptations in their house.
Visit the Center for Successful Aging at MedStar Health.
At the Center for Successful Aging at MedStar Health, we’re honored to address the unique needs of our elderly neighbors through comprehensive services that range from diagnosis and treatment to education and support services. Here, our fellowship-trained physicians, geriatric experts, social workers, and skilled nurses are dedicated to helping elderly patients and their family members and caregivers work together to ensure the best possible quality of life and health as they age at home—where they want to be.