It is important to make sure that you and your loved ones are aware of the potential dangers present at home. Simple modifications can be done to ensure that the home environment is safe for them. Falls and accidents can be prevented by making changes to unsafe areas in the home with the following tips.
Problem: Dimly lit rooms and hallways
All rooms should be well lit. As we age, there is a decline in our senses especially in our sight, hearing and smell. Your loved ones may be having trouble seeing even though it is comfortable lighting to you. Trouble with vision will lead to avoidable injuries. If the house seems dim, change all the light-bulbs to a higher wattage. Ensure that there are ample reading lights in the bedroom, kitchen and sitting room for reading pleasure.
Problem: Loose throw rugs and clutter on the floor
Remove clutter but make sure you discuss with your loved ones before making any new arrangements. Your aging loved one may not be able to lift his/her feet when walking and he/she may be using walking aids, such as a cane or walker.
Remove all loose rugs, electrical cords and low- lying decorations, as these may pose as a risk to falls. There should be enough room for them to turn around. All doorways should have a clear walkway.
Disorientation can occur when awaken in the middle of the night.
Provide a nightlight or touch-light on the side table or near the bed. Make sure there is no clutter around the foot of the bed or by the door.
Your loved ones struggle to get dressed in the morning. He/She does not change clothing or is often wearing dirty clothing.
Your loved one may be having trouble because of shaky hands or problems with vision. Make sure that your loved one’s wardrobe is organized and easily accessible. Offer to help him/her buy new clothing that is easy to wear, with few buttons and comfortable. If your loved one is struggling because of fatigue, prepare a sturdy chair in the room, in which they can sit when they get dressed.
Problem: Majority of falls happened in the toilets where floors are slippery
If your loved one can still shower or take a bath without assistance, install non-slip strips or a mat. The next step is to add grab bars and a shower bench. If there is a shower door, make sure it opens and closes easily to ensure safe entry and exit, as well as privacy.
If there is a need to step into a bathtub, it is vital that a grab handle is installed on the outside of the bath. Remove or tighten any loosely fitting towel bars to avoid those being used as a grab bar. An elevated toilet seat may be helpful to assist with standing and sitting.
Your loved one leaving electrical appliances on after use, or operating tools in an unsafe manner.
Due to the increased risk of fire, consider having the stove disabled. Mark "ON" and "OFF" on appliances clearly and with bright colors. Use a kettle with an automatic shut-off and store sharp knives in a rack. Avoid wearing long, loose clothing when cooking over the stove and keep floors clean and uncluttered to prevent falls.
Kitchen appliances are too high or too low to be reached
If possible, have a discussion to remove these items altogether, especially if they are seldom used. Move the appliances to the counter or a waist-height cupboard and make sure they are near a socket. Store heavier objects at waist level.
Problem: Stale and expired food in the refrigerator.
Clean out the fridge but don’t just replace the food with new supplies; have an honest conversation with your loved one. Does he/she need help with the cooking? Does he/she need assistance with grocery shopping and picking out nutritional meals? Make sure that you give him/her options and be open to suggestions. Assist them to label dates for perishable items. This will make it easier for your loved one to prepare his/her own meals. Be present during meal preparation to help out (not to take over) maintains a safe level of independence.
DR. NOR AZLINA is a specialist in Internal Medicine and a clinical fellow in Geriatric Medicine.