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How to Make Homes Safer for Older People

Whether due to slower reaction times or simply not being able to see and avoid risks, elderly people are far more likely to suffer a fall or other injury when at home. Those in the over-65s age bracket account for the vast majority of hospital admissions and the highest incidence of serious injuries.

It’s important, therefore, that as our loved ones age, we do everything within our power to make their homes as risk-free as possible. If your elderly relative is already receiving 24/7 care in a residential home, you have the peace of mind of knowing that they are being looked after and have help on hand, should an accident or injury occur. For those whose loved ones continue to live at home, either alone or with an elderly partner who may not be able to help in an accident, this can be a constant worry. Here are a few key things that can be done to help make homes safer for older people.

Rearranging furniture

Sometimes furniture can be positioned in such a way as to clutter a room and cause unnecessary obstructions, increasing the risk of trips and falls. Rearranging the furniture in your loved one’s home, so that there are clear through-paths within rooms, and plenty of space to manoeuvre walking aids or wheelchairs is a quick and easy way of making the home safer.

Low tables should be placed close to the walls, along with armchairs and any large potted plants. Ensuring there is adequate floorspace not only makes getting around easier but minimises the risk of your elderly relative banging their head on a hard surface should they stumble. Also. ensure that you tuck away any wires and flexes from appliances and freestanding lighting.

Adding extra grab rails and supports

Adding grab rails in the bathroom can help an older person get in and out of the bath or shower and use the toilet without the need for assistance, preserving their privacy and dignity as well as their safety. As some people are prone to dizzy spells, especially in warm temperatures, fitting a grab rail close to seating in the kitchen might also be a good idea.

If your loved one is receiving support in the form of daily visits from care workers, they may still be left alone for many hours at a stretch. Being able to use the bathroom as and when they want, rather than having to wait until a visit is scheduled, helps them feel in control and more independent.

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Installing ramps and stairlifts

Replacing steps to the front and rear of your loved one’s property reduces the risk of them tripping as they come and go from the house. This can pose a particular danger in the autumn and winter when slippery fallen leaves or ice present an added risk. Converting the steps to a ramp and adding a sturdy handrail will help keep your loved one safe and mobile, as well as helping them feel confident about getting out of the house.

Fitting a stairlift indoors can be beneficial to those with mobility problems. If your elderly relative is still living in their own home rather than receiving private care in a residential complex, a stairlift enables them to access upstairs rooms, rather than facing the disruption of converting their house to introduce a downstairs bedroom.

Automatic cut-offs for gas and cookers

One of the many ways elderly relatives like to maintain a sense of independent living is by continuing to cook their own meals, rather than rely on ‘Meals on Wheels’ services or waiting for a domiciliary caregiver. If your loved one is receiving dementia or Alzheimer’s care, however, being left alone in the kitchen can be extremely dangerous.

Those with memory problems can struggle to cope with basic daily tasks and may leave cooking unattended or forget to turn off appliances. As well as an increased risk of fire, there is also a danger that they may burn themselves on dishes they didn’t realise were hot, or scald themselves when they run taps.

There are devices which can be fitted to cookers and gas-powered equipment so that they will automatically cut out if left unattended. If your loved one wishes to continue cooking, then fitting one of these safety devices is a good idea.

Employing a carer

Of course, no home can be made entirely free from hazards, and you may feel the only way you and your loved one can have full peace of mind is by knowing there is someone always on hand to offer them care and support and to ensure they remain safe. If your elderly relative is reluctant to move into a care home then employing a live-in carer can be a good alternative option. Private care at home care is more affordable than most people realise and in-home care packages can be tailored to your loved one’s needs.

The live-in care worker will be able to assist with all manner of tasks, from helping your relative wash, clean and cook to taking them to appointments and social events. Private care agencies work hard to match their clients with a caregiver who shares their interests and hobbies. As such, they can provide much-needed companionship and mental stimulation as well as keep your loved one safe and comfortable.

Whether your loved one remains in their own home or moves in with you, a few simple adaptations to their living space can make a huge difference in keeping them safe and comfortable.

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Bridget, Care Professional at Elder

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