How to Elder-Proof a Home
Conditions that may have been sufficient 10 years ago can be downright hazardous to aging people whose vision, hearing, strength, and reflexes are not what they used to be. Here's a checklist of some of the most important steps you can take to keep a home environment safe for seniors:
Elder-Proof the Kitchen
- Heavy countertop appliances: These can fall and cause injuries. Remove them and replace with lightweight versions if possible.
- Smoke alarms: They're critical for anyone, but particularly for older people who might take longer to become aware of a fire.
- Toxic products: Remove any toxic cleaners or substances that might be confused with each other, or with medication.
- Throw rugs: These are popular on floors in front of sinks, but they can increase the risk of trips and slips.
Elder-Proof the Bathroom
- Nonstick bath and shower mats: Water plus slick surfaces can spell trouble.
- Grab bars: These are not only important in the shower and tub to prevent sudden falls, but they're useful to have by the toilet to assist with sitting and rising.
- Nightlights: Not just for toddlers, nightlights can be invaluable for those middle-of-the-night bathroom visits. They can also mean the difference between taking the right medication and the wrong one.
- Water heater: Set the water heater to top out at 120 degrees. This will prevent scalding.
Elder-Proof Stairs and Hallways
- Threshold ramps: Unsightly floor bumps that occur at the intersection of two rooms can pose serious tripping dangers to seniors. These ramps smooth out surfaces.
- Grab bars: On staircases, these can take over where handrails end. Grab bars can be helpful when even a single step separates a den from the rest of the house.
- Motion-sensor lighting: This can assist your loved one as he walks from room to room, especially if he may have trouble finding light switches in the dark.
- Safety gates: Set up at the top and bottom of a staircase, these can prevent tumbles in those who may be unsteady on their feet.
- Electrical cords: Tuck away cords that are visible, as they're a tripping hazard.
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