Most seniors do not want to go into a nursing home or assisted living if they are able to live at home. As a healthcare administrator, friends or different relatives asking how to make their homes safer for their parents have often contacted me. At some point, senior living care may be the option, but I understand why people want to hold onto their independence as long as possible. Here are some things I’ve learned from my personal experience.
Adapt your space.
When my mom was diagnosed with dementia, we adapted my parents’ home to assist with her needs and continued to adapt as her disease progressed. My mom was a frequent faller. She broke her arm and knocked her head on the floor multiple times, leaving big knots of her forehead or the back of her head, depending on the direction she fell. It was awful. My dad couldn’t be at the house 24/7. It was no one’s fault she was falling. It was just the cards we were dealt. But, I could put some safety features in place.
The rugs were removed in the house so there was less of a slip hazard. A shower seat was placed in the shower, a hand-held shower nozzle for showers and a grab bar in the shower. It seemed like she would always get dizzy in the showers, so I knew I had to focus on this area. We equipped the bathroom with a grab bar by the toilet. Sensored night lights were installed so she could see in the evening or nighttime. This helped her stop using the furniture as her guide and actually walking. A baby monitor was installed in my dad’s room for him to be able to hear her if she fell or called out for help.
Safety is peace of mind.
For the first time in months, my dad finally got some relief and sleep. She was able to let him know if she needed him and he didn’t feel the anxiety of getting up every five minutes to check on her. For the safety and security of both my parents, a life alert system was installed. This is a pendant system that they both wore. If there was an emergency, they would push it and a life alert representative would ask them if they needed help. If they didn’t respond, emergency services would immediately respond. It also had a tiered calling system to alert my siblings and me. We also completed a safety maintenance check around the house.
Creating a safe space is more accessible than you may think.
These were not expensive changes made in my parent’s home, but they were effective. We saw a decrease in my mom’s falls and a sense of security return to both of my parents. My mom wore her life alert pendant until the day she passed away. She was even in the long-term care center wearing it. It didn’t work in that range, but she didn’t care. She had become one with her pendant, as it had served her well.
It was important for us to give our parents a sense of security if they were going to age at home safely. If you live too far and are unable to do these types of things for your parents, there are services that can assist you. The local department on aging in their area should be able to assist you.
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