Your Checklist for Senior Safety and Comfort
When it comes to providing well-designed products and environments for older people, manufacturers have always focused on safety. While that is still the first and foremost consideration, physical and emotional comfort is also becoming a priority.
Many hospitals, emergency rooms, hospices, and senior housing facilities are building and modifying their premises to make life easier and more accommodating so their elderly patients can reside in safe and comfortable surroundings. Architects and designers are partnering with life science experts to come up with new ideas to make life more comfortable for the growing population of older people. You can borrow many of their designs and product ideas for anyone who is hoping to stay home and "age in place."
There are many aspects of comfort to be considered when you are trying to create a safe and sound environment for seniors. Visual comfort (lighting), acoustic comfort (sound control), functional comfort (safety and accessibility), and thermal comfort (temperature control) are some of the most important. There are many ways you can make home life more comfortable and adapt the surroundings for an elderly person in your care.
In all rooms:
- Be sure all areas are well lit, including doorways, stairways, halls, and countertops.
- Install light switches near the entrance to each room and at the top and bottom of stairways.
- Place all cords and wires against walls and away from heavily trafficked areas.
- Consider installing outdoor ramps and indoor stair-lifts.
- Repair or replace worn out furniture, fixtures, flooring, and steps.
In the bedroom:
- Use an egg-crate style mattress pad and foam bed wedge for added support and comfort. Memory foam used in cushions, pads, and pillows comfortably conforms to the shape of the body and helps protect against pressure sores.
- Attach a bed rail to assist in getting in and out of a reclining position.
- Provide a good-sized night table next to the bed so important items are not easily knocked off.
- Keep a sturdy, comfortable chair in the bedroom for sitting down while getting dressed.
- Maintain a comfortable room temperature conducive to a good night's sleep.
In the living room:
- Provide foot rests and leg rests that are ergonomically designed to hold legs in a position that alleviates lower back and leg pain and reduces the risk of pressure sores for anyone who sits in a wheelchair.
- Place an electric power lift, memory foam cushion on a favorite armchair to give someone with bad knees a gentle lift up and out of the seat.
- Attach corner cushions to any sharp edges on furniture such as tables and entertainment units.
In the dining room:
- Place coccyx cushions (made with memory foam) on chairs for taking pressure off the tailbone.
- If there is an area rug under the dining room table, be sure to use a well-made, correctly-sized underlying grip to keep it firmly in place.
In the bathroom:
- Gather toiletries into one easy-access location.
- Remove loose throw rugs from the floor to avoid tripping.
- Be sure windows and doors are draft-free.
- Use translucent privacy curtains.
- Install grab-bars near toilets, bathtubs, and shower stalls
- Provide a shower bench.
In the kitchen:
- Place gel-foam or rubber mats in front of the sink or stove to reduce stress on the feet, back, and lower joints.
- Install pull-out shelves.
de Almedida Neris, V, et al. "Environmental Comfort in the Personal Space of the Elderly."
Living Well: Assisted Living at Home
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service: A Housing Safety Checklist for Older People
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