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From Our Blog:

Copyright © 2014          Western Illinois Home Health Care, Inc.          All rights reserved

Full Service Provider

September 2013

by Amanda Powell

Falls are the number one cause of accidents in people over the age of 65. Falls are also the main cause of serious injuries and accidental deaths in older people. There are a variety of factors that cause accidents in seniors’ homes. It is very important that risk factors are looked at and reduced if a senior wants to be successful in remaining safely in their home.  We all know that the majority of seniors have a goal to remain home. Making it safe and accessible is very important in order to attain that goal.  


First, look at the outside of the home. There needs to be an even walk way and a clear path to the home. Look to see if bushes and shrubs need trimmed for a clearer path. If steps are present, are there sturdy hand rails? Are the steps broken and uneven? Is the senior able to use steps or do they create a fall risk; if so, then a ramp should be in place. A ramp is also easier for a senior to use when a cane, walker, or wheelchair is used. Also look at the lighting in the driveway, walkway, and entrance to the home. Good lighting reduces the risk of a fall due to being able to see where they are walking. Check the door threshold height because that can also be a trip hazard. Look at the door knob, lock, key, mailbox, and peephole to see that they are user friendly for the senior.  


Second, look at the interior doors, stairs and halls. Look at the width of the doorways and make sure that walkers and wheelchairs will fit through them. Make sure the senior is aware if there are changes in floor levels. Clear hallways and stairs for clutter. Determine if the stairs are safe for a senior to go up and down and if the hand rail is sturdy. Stair lifts are available if the upstairs of a home needs to be used and a senior is no longer safe to use the steps. Doorways can also usually be widened to make it easier to fit assistive devices through.


Third, look at the bathroom. Is the mirror height appropriate? If a senior is now bound to a wheelchair it may need to be lowered so they can still see in it. Does shelving need moved for accessibility? Can the senior step in and out of the tub or shower? Shower units with no step can be put in, or there is a possibility that the current tub could be made accessible by a door being cut in the side to open and walk into the tub. Hand held shower heads along with a shower seat make it much easier for a senior who can’t stand for long periods of time to enjoy a thorough shower. Grab bars both in the shower and around the toilet are also very important. Look at the toilet and see if the height needs adjusted and if the toilet paper is reachable. Toilet risers are available which make it easier for a senior to get from the sitting to standing position along with the grab bars beside the toilet. Also look at the space and would a caregiver be able to fit along with the senior if assistance is necessary.   


Fourth, look at the kitchen. Can the senior reach the items in the cupboards? If not, could the items in those cupboards be moved to a space that is accessible? Note the stove controls, are they at the front or rear of the stove and could a wheelchair bound senior reach if they are at the back. Is there counter space to prep food and beside the oven to place hot food from the oven? Is the lighting adequate? Replacing or adding lights in a home can make a huge difference for visibility.


Fifth, look at the living room, dining room, and bedroom. Make sure these rooms are free from clutter, throw rugs and electrical cords. If the senior insists on throw rugs then make sure there is rug tape or non-slip backing. If an electrical cord across the floor cannot be avoided, get a chord cover for it. Make sure the height of the bed, chair, and sofa allow for sitting to standing without difficulty. Lift chairs are available when this becomes too difficult. Electric beds and hand rails can also assist in adjusting to what fits best for the senior.


Sixth, look at the laundry. Can the senior easily access the laundry? If not, can the washer and dryer be moved to a level of the home that would work for the senior? If the laundry or other items needed for the senior are in the basement and it can’t be avoided, are the basement stairs stable and well lit?  


Make sure there are working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and that there a clear path to get out of the home. Unfortunately seniors don’t always hear, see, or move as well as they used to so it is very important that these things are in place and where a senior can hear them. There are fire alarms available that will vibrate your bed when danger arises if hearing the alarm is a concern. Fire alarms age so make sure you replace them regularly and check the batteries. If safety is a concern due to fall risk, hearing or vision loss, speed to evacuate the home or ability to reach the phone, emergency home response systems are available also. These are button systems that usually connect to a phone line that the senior can wear around their neck or on their wrist and can be pushed when any emergency or need arises. Once the button is pushed it will allow for the person to respond with their need/or send emergency personnel when needed. There are more options for this now without a home phone line so look into this if it would benefit you or a loved one.


At Western Illinois Home Health Care, we can provide a comprehensive home assessment by our Senior Care Managers to identify and offer suggestions on you or your loved one’s living situation, along with a tailored care plan to meet your needs to keep you or your loved ones at home.     


Amanda Powell, BSW is the Senior Care Manager for Western Illinois Home Health Care.


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Safety and Accessibility Essential for Seniors Wanting to Remain at Home