When you or your loved one starts to reach a certain age, it can be a little challenging to get around as quickly. The easiest thing that can be done for an older adult struggling with any issues is to create a very safe environment for them to move around in. While an elderly person may seem to get around on their own, there are still ways to get injured around a house.
Thankfully making a home safe for an elderly person is not as hard as one may think. They will still live everyday life without the need to move to a senior assisted living facility. With a few simple changes with their home, they could have the freedom of living on their own while you have peace of mind that they are safe. Read on to find out how to create a safe home for an elderly person.
You Must Create a Fall-Free Safe House For The Elderly
The first and most crucial step you must do when creating a safe environment is making the whole home fall-free. You do not want to have anything in the home that could make the trip or stumble. While a younger person can quickly right themselves when they trip, typically, an elderly person has slower reflexes, and it is harder to quickly regain their balance.
Creating a fall-free home means:
- Attaching bookcases to the wall or secure them properly
- Attaching T.V.s to walls or have them up out of the way, cords included
- Clearing up any space to ensure having clear paths to and from every room and door – the wider, the better
- If it can be moved, move it out of the way
- Make sure rugs are secured to the floor and the edges do not stick up at all
If there is anything that could tip when pulled on, it should be secured to the walls. Accidents are bound to happen, but you can make sure that nothing comes down on top of someone if there is a fall. A fall is one of the most significant and most common risks to an elderly person’s well-being, whether they live alone or not.
There are different ways to make each room of a house safe. Below you will not only find out the most significant risk within each room, but you will also learn how to make each room safe for an elderly person.
The Biggest Safety Hazards in an Elderly Persons Home
Now let’s look at the most significant hazards an elderly person may come across in their home; if you are aware of the most significant risk, you will be able to prevent them. Some of the most significant risks to an elderly person living alone include:
This is just as important as the physical risk. There is a significant mental toll on many elderly people who live alone. There can even be a toll when an elderly couple lives together. They are used to being able to do much more and being independent. When this changes, it can wreak havoc on their mental health.
There is also the isolation, not being able to socialize with others as families grow up and move on. It’s incredibly hard on the elderly. It can create a higher risk of specific medical issues such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Lower immune system and more prone to getting sick
- Memory loss
These can come on differently for every person, and some may not even notice these getting worse. Every person is different, but the risk is greater, and these should not be ignored. Visiting and getting your loved one out of the house can significantly lower the risk of health issues.
Becoming Stuck After a Fall or a Trip
One of the most common issues of the elderly living alone is falling. At the same time, everyone will fall once, or 100 times in their life. As you get older, it’s harder for you to get up. An elderly person could get stuck on the ground or in an award position.
If this happens and they can not reach a cell phone or life alert type of device, things can go from bad to worse. This leads us to the next issue.
Risk of Medical Emergencies Being Worse Than They Should Be
If someone falls and can not get up, they could be stuck for hours or even days. Unfortunately, when left untreated, some injuries could cause the loss of a limb or even of life. If there is an elderly person in your life that you love, check on them daily. Just a phone call can mean a world of difference.
Not Being Able to Eat a Healthy Diet – Not Eating At All
When an elderly person has issues getting around quickly, they can have trouble cooking meals. Some elderly people can get by on snacks, but that is just not enough. It is hard for anyone to cook a full meal for just themselves. Add in decades of wear and tear on your body, and it can be really hard.
They also can feel sad or overwhelmed, which can lead to them not wanting to prepare a healthy diet. Having meals prepped and brought over or meals delivered is incredibly beneficial to the elderly. They can get the nutrients that they need with very little to no effort.
How to Make a Bathroom Safe for the Elderly
Bathroom falls are pretty common in any household, let alone an elderly household. Wet surfaces create slick areas that are incredibly hazardous to the elderly. There are thankfully quite a few steps you can take to create a safe bathroom area. Some of the steps can start to add up in cost, while others are quick fixes.
The way you fix the bathroom all depends on the elderly person’s mobility level. While one person may just need a handrail, another might need a whole different setup in the bathroom. Now let’s look at what can be done to lower the risk of an accident and make life easier.
Slip Resistant Mats
One of the first things that need to be done is to take care of the bathroom is mats. Place slip-resistant mats in the shower/tub and outside of it. Even putting a slip-resistant mat in front of the sink can help prevent falls.
Mare sure the mats are secured to the floor or bottom of the tub. Test them to make sure they are slip-resistant. This will help as individuals step in and out of the shower.
This is also one of the very east steps to do. You can add handrails everywhere in the bathroom.
- Around the toilet
- In the shower, higher on the wall to steady themselves as they shower
- Lower near the tub part of the shower to help them lower and pull themselves up
- Outside of the shower on the wall
You really can’t have too many handrails in an elderly person’s bathroom. If you want to know the correct placement, have them walk around in the bathroom and go through the motions of what they would do in the bathroom.
Removable Shower Head and a Shower Chair
This might not seem that important, but having a showerhead can move to their body versus them moving around can help prevent slips in the tub. A shower head makes them able to have more control over washing their own body.
It also comes in handy when they have a shower chair. They can easily sit in the slip-resistant chair and wash. Both are relatively inexpensive and very helpful to those that can’t get around very easily.
It can be emotionally beneficial for an elderly person to be still able to bathe themselves. It takes a toll on them when their loved ones or strangers need to bathe them.
Lower Tub or a Walk In Shower
Now let’s look at some of the more expensive options. Replacing the tub or shower with a:
- A lower sided tub that is much easier to get into
- Shower with a small lip with no need to step over anything
- Walk-in bathtub – with a door that closes behind you to create a seal
- Walk-in shower
These can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Some health insurances will cover walk-in tubs when they are medically necessary.
Higher Sink and Countertop
This is also a more significant expense, but it can also be done DIY to save money. Some sinks are lower in homes, and an elderly person doesn’t need to bend to reach a sink.
Keep in mind someone in a wheelchair will need a lower sink, so if that will be sooner than later, it’s not advised to raise it. Otherwise, you can raise it by having someone (who knows what they are doing) build a wood base to raise the basin.
It is as simple as building a wooden base around the bottom to raise it and extending the pipes under the sink. It can be a DIY but make sure to research what you are doing first.
Tips on Creating a Kitchen That Is Safe for the Elderly
Another significant room in the house is the kitchen. If an elderly person wants to cook for themselves, they need a kitchen that makes life easier, not more complicated. Some easy ways to do this are:
Space to Move Around Using a Walker, Cane, or Wheelchair
An elderly person doesn’t want to squeeze past things in their kitchen. If they are using some type of support to get around, they also need space for that. Moving a dining room table or other unneeded items is the perfect start to creating a safe kitchen.
This step may not be the best project to take on as it may cost a decent amount of money (if they need to be replaced) and a lot of time to do it on your own. It can be as easy as lowering the upper cabinets a few inches so they are easier to reach.
The higher shelves and tops of the cabinets may still not be able to be reached. This can be for storage, and you, another loved one, or a health worker can get things down as needed.
They also have hand grabbers like the one found here that can be used to reach things. They are extremely useful to the elderly and even anyone who is on the shorter side.
This can also be a huge task to take on, physically and financially. It can be done by replacing the counter and lower cabinets with different-sized ones. Lower counters are handy for those in a wheelchair, but they also are easier for those that need to take breaks/sit at the counter while cooking
You can also find stools and handrails for the kitchen for those that may get a little wobbly when they’re on their feet for too long. It truly depends on what each person needs.
Making Household Chores Easier
There are several ways to make everyday life easier for an elderly person. This can prolong the time that an elderly person can live on their own. Having help with household chores can allow them to take control of their lives and maintain a little independence.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can help make household chores easier for the elderly. Whether it is having people help with specific duties or buying a tool to make it easier, there are many options. It is usually quite an easy fix.
You can consider getting tools such as:
- Dustpans that have long handles to limit bending
- Hand grabbers for hard to reach/dropped items
- Have stools or a push walker in the house for them to take breaks
- Lightweight vacuum or a robot/programmable vacuum for spot cleaning
- Maid Services to help tidy up – do the heavy lifting
- Make sure the washer and dryer are within their reach
- Offer your help for any chores they feel worried about
Anyway, making life easier for an elderly person with their daily household chores is excellent. Not only will it help with their mental health, but it will help to keep them safer. As mentioned above, mental health is just as important as physical safety.
It’s a Good Idea to Have a Plan in Case of an Accident
While you can create the safest environment possible for an elderly person, there are still accidents that will happen. What you don’t want is them lying somewhere injured with no help coming. There should always be a plan for different situations that may come up. There are some ways you can make sure an elderly person has help coming.
Medical Alert System
One of the most common tips is to buy a medical alert bracelet or necklace. They are very helpful and will prevent an accident from becoming something much worse. In case you are unfamiliar with them, these are a device that:
- Is always on their body within their reach
- Can prevent emergencies from turning into a tragedy
- Doesn’t require anyone to call 911
- Is always on
- Knows the address and medical information of the person it is on
- Will call 911, lift-assist or an emergency contact when needed
When a fall or other emergency happens, the wearer simply hits a button. Some models even detect falls. Once activated, the company associated with that device is notified and will contact whoever is needed at that moment. They will relay the necessary information to their point of contact.
Even though the medical alert company will relay information, it is a good idea to have the following posted where first responders can see it:
- Any allergies and illnesses listed in plain sight (on a fridge or near the front door)
- Doctor’s information on that list also
- Phone number of the emergency contact that is available to answer
- This is important for pets to be cared for and any questions they may have.
This will make it much easier on the first responders if there happen to be pets or another elderly person in the home that may need help. The information is also essential for those who do not have any medical alert bracelets/necklaces.
It is also a good idea for the elderly to get to know their neighbors. There have been many cases where a neighbor saw the light on at an odd time or heard a noise that made them check the home. Lives have been saved by simply having a neighbor who cared enough to check on their elderly neighbor.
The Elderly Can Do Well in a Smart Home
It may seem surprising, but yes, the elderly can do very well in a smart home and create a safe environment. You can set up many features for them, and they can use their voice to control various items without needing to stand up.
When there is less movement through the house, there is less chance of a fall. Let’s look at some of the best smart home items for the elderly
- Alarm Systems – This will help keep them safe and secure at night. They can simply speak to set it.
- Alexa or a Google Home type of System – These devices are especially useful and can be used for many different reasons. Controlling the:
- Calendars for doctors’ appointments
- Door locks
- Making phone calls
- Ordering Food
- Ordering groceries
- Fire & Carbon Monoxide Detectors – This means you or someone else can be notified if there is smoke or fire. Not only will the first responders be notified, but it can send out notifications to an emergency contact person.
- Smart Thermostats – This is beneficial because they do not need to change the temperature.
Smart home devices may seem a little overwhelming at first, but your loved ones will only need to use their voices once the processes are set up. They can even be turned up louder for the hard of hearing and can make individuals not need to get up and down as often.
Staircases, Entryways & Basements
If the elderly person in question lives in a one-level home, thankfully, you won’t need to do anything about this. If there is a two-story home, basement, or even stairs leading up to the home, you will need to change this. No, you won’t need to replace stairs or move them into a new home, but this is another area you should expect to pay a good amount of money.
Can they Climb Stairs?
If this is the case, you may only need to reinforce the handrails (you must have handrails on all stairs). Make sure the railings are very sturdy. If someone stumbles and their weight pulls on the banisters, they can’t budge. Also, be sure to make sure the stairs do not have any tripping hazards or anything sitting on them, for that matter.
Make sure outdoor stairs are deiced and shoveled in the winter to prevent slips. There are also outdoor slip-resistant mats that you can attach to each stair. If the indoor stairs are wooden, you could use rubber mats to prevent slipping. Many elderly people have colder feet and want socks. Socks and wood stairs are a noticeably big slip risk.
Are they Using a Walker or Wheelchair?
If the elderly person can no longer get from floor to floor safely, it is time to invest a little money into the home or potentially relocate to a new residence. There are several ways to help an elderly person who can not get up or downstairs:
- Ramps outside of the home with a sturdy handrail
- You can add a walker to help them easily make their way up the ramp
- Electronic stairlifts to all levels in the house
- These will cost around $4,000 to over $10,000, depending on brand and stair size.
While they are expensive, stairlifts can mean the difference between an elderly person staying in the home they know to keep some independence or moving into a senior home. As long as they can get around (even slowly), give them independence.
Meal Prep & Eating Healthy
As mentioned above, this is one of the many issues an elderly person will have. They can have a very safe home and become worse because they do not get the vitamins and calories they need each day. This is why it is important to have a meal plan in place.
There are many different options, thankfully, to ensure that an elderly person is eating right. Let’s look at some of the options you can choose from to have them eating right.
- Meal Prep – You or a family member is making meals and porting them out. They can be put in the fridge or frozen, making the meals simply heat and eat.
- Meal Delivery Service for Seniors – There are services in every state that offer affordable (sometimes free) meal prep and meal deliveries weekly or daily to the home.
- Ordering Food through a Door Dash Type of Service – For the times when no one can be over there, and they are feeling too exhausted to cook, you can order from their favorite restaurant and have it delivered nice and warm to them.
- Cook with Them – Some elderly people still love to cook and don’t want to depend on others entirely. Go over to their home and cook with them. It will be a bonding experience, and the boost that will give to their mental health with be huge.
Another great way to get them to eat healthily is to plant a container garden. This can be done on a:
- Front Porch
Some in the right conditions can even be done inside. You can plant many different things for them and set up watering times that don’t cost much at all, such as the one found here. You can set it up, and all they will need to do is wait and pick their produce when it’s ready.
You can plant several things that are easy to maintain and will produce well, such as:
- Bell Peppers
- Hot Peppers
All of these are quite easy to maintain and can be grown in containers/buckets. This will provide the homeowner with fresh vegetables and berries anytime they want them. It also gives them something to do and to care for a living thing. This also gets them into the fresh air and keeps their brain occupied.
In-Home Health Care for Those That Need Extra Assistance
In some cases, even though you create a safe home, there is still the need for extra help. It is not any fault of your own, but many people have jobs and lives that make them unable to be there as much as they want to be. It is a good idea to call in for extra help.
Insurance covers in-home health care in almost all situations, thankfully. There is an extensive range of what in-home health care workers can do, ranging from:
- Being in the home for hours each day to help an elderly person get to the bathroom, shower, and eat
- Giving medicines as needed
- Staying overnight to help out with anything they may need
- Stopping by once a day to help tidy up and assist with or do meal prep
- Stopping by once a week to tidy up or do deep cleaning
- When an elderly person is not doing well, they can also be there to make them comfortable
When everything in this article and even in-home health is not enough, it will be time to talk about moving them into a senior living facility. This can be a group home type situation where they live in their room in an around-the-clock staffed building.
In some homes, they can cook for themselves and live a normal life while being watched over. At the same time, some are simply a room that is more like a hospital set up for those that need it.
Making a House Safe for the Elderly
As you now know, there are many ways to make a home safe for an elderly person. Ways to make sure they can get around safely and eat a healthy diet.
It is not hard to create a safe house for an elderly person, but it can take time and money. It is very much worth it to allow them to live as freely as they would have years ago. They will appreciate and so will their mental health.