How to Keep Home a Place of Comfort and Safety for Seniors
According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 90% of citizens over the age of 65 want to live at home. It’s not hard to imagine some of the reasons why staying at home is a preference for seniors, but if they’re going to stay home, it’s important to help them stay safe. There are about 11 million adults “aged 65 and older” who are living alone. Living alone places much of the day-to-day activities, such as cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene, and outdoor tasks on these individuals unless family members, friends, or caregivers assist. It’s important to determine what seniors needs are in order to allow them to stay at home. Aging in place doesn’t have to be difficult, and it can be done with some assistance and changes in the home to enhance safety. Take a look at our room-by-room view of safety tips and features you should consider to help your loved one keep some of his or her independence while staying at home.
According to the National Council on Aging Care, “80 percent of falls happen in the bathroom” with “30%-50% of falls being due to environmental causes (eg, poor lighting, slippery floors, and uneven surfaces)”. Here are some ways you can prevent them from falling and other medical emergencies.
Preventing your senior from having to pick up his or her feet too high when entering the bathtub will be a relief for them and help reduce the risk of falling when stepping in or out. Although this can be a pricey renovation, falling injuries can be serious, so it is definitely worth it. Walk-in bathtubs typically range anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $6,000.
Another way to assist seniors who may not be able to stand for longer periods of time in the shower if with a shower chair. You can find shower chairs that are designed with handles, backing, and those without handles or a back as well. Combined with hand-railing in the shower, this can decrease their chances of falling and also make daily care easier.
Adding handrails in the bathroom in places like next to the toilet and in the shower/bathtub areas provide additional support where needed most. Seniors will be able to keep themselves more stable while sitting or moving in and out of the shower/bathtub areas. This is another type of device that will help prevent seniors from falling.
If your senior still travels and or tends to spend some time outdoors, it will be good for him or her to have access to assistance while on the go and to make sure the exterior of their home is accessible. Here are some products that can help:
The CDC claims that “falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths” for those aged 65 years and older. For seniors who are in wheelchairs or have difficulty walking, adding a ramp to the home will help make it more accessible for independent living. Keeping your senior from having to climb stairs will help prevent falling accidents. Depending on the need, you can have a ramp built or purchase one online.
Medical Alert Wearables
For seniors who are more active while living at home or traveling day-to-day, a medical alert wearable is a great addition to have on hand. You’ll typically find medical alert providers that offer systems with wearables like a mobile help button, wrist band, mobile base station with GPS, and even vehicular devices. Seniors can easily press a button to request emergency assistance, and if their medical alert wearable has GPS tracking, they can be located more easily.
A video doorbell can allow seniors to see who is at their door before getting up to answer it. This device can especially be helpful with their safety by preventing them from answering the door if they don’t recognize the individual who’s ringing.
Outdoor Security Cameras
Outdoor security cameras are being enhanced with deterrence features like lighting and warning sirens, which can be helpful for seniors who live alone. Security cameras alone have been stated to deter burglars. If your senior has a smartphone, he or she may also be able to get alerts and view a live video feed from their phone.
For those who have a garage at their home, if it is a primary place of entry for them, it will be essential to make sure there is sufficient lighting and other safety measures in place.
Handy for seniors returning home in the evenings or after dark, having smart lights can help to ensure that they don’t open the garage door to a dark space. You can set the lights to trigger on at certain times of the day, or you can purchase a motion-sensing light that will automatically turn on when activity is detected.
Garage Door Controller
Another basic safety device is a garage door opener. You may not think of these as safety devices, but most seniors should not be lifting heavy doors. These aren’t new or technically advanced, but some models can schedule when the garage door opens or closes. You can get a garage door controller with a home security system or purchase one separately.
Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide is a silent threat, and it’s important to be able to detect dangerous levels. Installing a carbon monoxide detector in a garage is helpful in the event a senior forgets and leaves the car running. The detector can sound an alarm and even alert emergency responders if the alarm is monitored with a home security provider.
With many seniors spending more time in front of screens than younger Americans (10 hours per day), it can be easy to assume that they’re spending their time in front of televisions, tablets, phones, or computers. For some seniors, this may mean spending a lot of time in their living rooms, and it’s important to take notice of how these rooms can be more safe.
Rugs can be a tripping hazard for the elderly. Sometimes the ends of rugs don’t lay completely flat, creating a tripping hazard. You’ll either want to secure loose rugs with grippers, tape, or stapling, or replace them. Look for rugs with non-slip or rubber backing to help prevent movement.
Medical Alert System
Another great addition to your senior’s home is a complete medical alert system. You can find a medical alert system that caters best to your senior’s needs like one for the home if he or she is less mobile, and even one for on-the-go like a neck pendant or wrist wearable. If your senior is prone to falling, many medical alert system providers offer fall detection and waterproof devices for continued use during showering or bathing.
Indoor Security Camera
If you want to be able to keep tabs on how your loved one is doing, installing an indoor security camera can allow you to be able to check in with them during the day. You can purchase an indoor security camera with a monthly monitoring plan through a home security provider or purchase a standalone camera without a provider’s services. On your smartphone, you can check in with your loved one via live feed and chat with them through two-way audio.
The kitchen is the heart of the home – but it can also be a dangerous place with fire hazards, sharp utensils and hard surfaces everywhere. Does your senior actively cook on a regular basis? Does he or she get up at night and go into the kitchen? Here are some devices that can help keep a kitchen safe.
Automatic Shut-Off Devices
You don’t have to be a senior to forget to turn off the stove or oven, but these kinds of accidents happen more often with seniors in the home. If your senior is showing signs of forgetfulness, purchasing an automatic shut-off device can help to prevent a serious accident. With most of these devices, you’ll find a built-in timer that will automatically shut down your stove after a set amount of time. You should also consider automatic shut-off devices with features like motion detection, smoke detection, and smartphone notifications.
Having a smoke detector properly installed in your senior’s kitchen is essential. Having a monitored smoke detector is even better. Some home security providers offer smoke alarm monitoring to alert responders in the event of an emergency. Be sure to check out the detector’s battery life and diagnostic notifications.
Let’s face it, not everyone’s tall enough to reach the top cabinet shelf in the kitchen. And that’s okay. Keep your seniors from having to overextend with a step stool. There are a number of step stools you can choose from, and remember to place it in a location where it’s convenient to grab when needed. It’s much better if you can move any items that they may need lower so they’re easier to grab. As much as possible, it’s better to keep seniors from having to climb up and down.
Help to keep your loved one’s bedroom safe by making sure they can see clearly, avoid slipping, and are well supported.
Like smart lighting for other parts of the house, a night light can come in handy for seniors who get up and down during the night. They can provide a clear path when moving about in the dark to reduce the chance of trips and falls. Make sure to light up any stairways and hallways too.
For mornings or seniors who spend more time in the home, try to find some house slippers with a slip-resistant bottom like a rubber sole for additional traction while walking.
Bed rails can be installed to help prevent your senior from falling out of bed or to help them get out of bed. Look for rails with adjustable height, and be sure to check the weight that they can support.
Some seniors may live in homes with basements or additional floors, and these can pose an additional risk to their safety since they may have to climb stairs. Here are some products that can help to create a safer environment in these areas.
If your senior has mobility issues and or is no longer able to safely navigate their stairwell(s), a stair lift would be a helpful addition. Stair lifts allow seniors to ride up and down a stairwell on a motorized track, thus preventing the chance for falls. These devices are pricey. RetirementLiving.com writes that they can range anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000 depending on the type. There are some options that you may be able to look into to help with covering the cost of a stair lift like Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, or additional programs.
Seniors might not readily detect water leaks or flooding, especially if getting to the basement is difficult. Adding a water leak sensor to your basement and in any other strategic areas of the home like bathrooms, wash rooms, and under sinks can especially be helpful. Most sensors are designed with alarms to alert homeowners. You can purchase water leak detectors as standalone devices or as part of a home security system.
Aging in Place Product Recommendations
We’ve provided some additional product recommendations for the items listed above to help you enhance your senior’s safety while at home.
1. Prairie View Industries Threshold Ramp 10 in. x 32 in.Our rating
Designed for occupied wheelchair or motorized scooters, the Prairie View Industries Threshold Ramp has a sturdy aluminum build and features an anti-slip surface. This ramp has a 600 lb. support capacity and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Stand-out features include
- Good for wheelchair and scooter use
- Has an anti-slip surface
- Has a 600 lb. support capacity
2. 6 ft. Aluminum Wheelchair Entry Ramp & Hand RailsOur rating
This 6 ft. Titan Aluminum Wheelchair ramp is great for better home accessibility. It features an aluminum design and hand rails for guided support for non-wheelchair users. This ramp is built to resist corrosion and can be easily installed with minimal assembly needs.
Stand-out features include
- Hand rails for guided support
- One-piece design for easy assembly
- Can support up to 850 lbs.
3. NYOrtho Bedside Floor Mat for ElderlyOur rating
The NYOrtho Bedside Floor Mat features high-impact absorbing foam and can help prevent bedside injuries. With a slip-resistant design, this mat is safe for seniors and those who may have ambulatory disabilities. The beveled edges create easy beside access for wheelchairs or other mobility aids.
Stand-out features include
- Beveled edge design for easy access
- High-impact absorbing foam
- Slip-resistant backing
4. Rug Pads 5 x 7 ft. Non-Slip GripperOur rating
Made pre-cut and easy to fit under your rugs, these rug pads feature a grid-style and prevent sliding and gathering. These rug pads also help to protect your floors from scuff marks and allow for air circulation to discourage dust collection. You can order these pads pre-cut to the size you need.
Stand-out features include
- Grid-style to allow air circulation and prevent dust collection
- Pre-cut and easy to fit to your rug
- Made for use on hard floors
5. Vaunn Medical Foot Step Stool with HandleOur rating
The Vaunn Medical Foot Step Stool features a side handle, making it easy for seniors to use whether they’re in the kitchen, living room, or other areas in the home and need to reach higher placed objects. This step stool features a steel construction for durability and has a slip-resistant rubber platform.
Stand-out features include
- Made with a handle and slip-resistant, rubber platform
- Durable steel construction
- Made for multipurpose use