Making Our House Safer: For Aging Parents and For Ourselves

My husband and I keep hearing about people who fall inside their homes, some of them older seniors and some in our age range (50′s – 60′s). Most people trip over an area rug or lose their

Home Safety Tips

balance in the bathroom or on steps. Check out this online PowerPoint lecture at the University of Pittsburgh Supercourse site. Titled Fear of Falling Among Seniors:  Needs Assessment and Intervention Strategies, the lecture provides an overview and potential solutions.

In her New York Times Well Blog Tara Parker-Pope addresses is issue of falling and introduces an article by Leslie Alderman, Making Home a Safer Place, Affordably, highlighting the subject and describing what should be accomplished to make a home safer for a senior relative.

New Railing @ Top of Stairway

With senior parents in and out of our house we thought about in-home safety accommodations for years, but we finally did something about it. While initially we thought about fixing up our house to make it safer for our senior parents, we realized it was also for us.

Accommodations Made at Our House

In 2007 and 2008 we completed the following installations and modifications at our house:

Grab Bar for Exiting Shower

  • two grab bars in each bathroom inside the tub shower and just outside (so a person can climb out and hold on if necessary).
  • a grab bar in the powder room next to the toilet (because the room is very small and it is easy to bump into the sink).
  • an extra wooden hand railing just inside the side door, so a person can hold on after entering and stepping up and preparing to turn.
  • an extra railing at the top of the stairway, so that a person has a place to hold on where there had been none.
  • two high quality, mildew resistant  shower mats.  These mats have suction cups to prevent sliding.  We put them down each time we shower, and hang them up to dry afterwards.
  • several high quality rug pads to ensure that area rugs stay in one place.

Grab Bar on Wall Above Tub

We are pleased with our changes and extra pleased that our senior parents have experienced few difficulties moving around the house safely. We also feel more secure in showers, bathtubs, and on stairways. This Mayo Clinic site tells even more about preventing falls.

Falls cause havoc in people’s lives – at the very least couple of days of stiffness. In the past various people I know have experienced weeks of muscle aches or minor injuries or chronic pain that lasts for months — all after falling. We also know that a fall can start a cascade of physical problems that led to the death of one of our senior parents.

Also, check out my post about falling, on November 11, 2009.  Another post, Death from Falls, Part I, features a CDC chart with statistics about unintentional falls and death for people over 65.

4 thoughts on “Making Our House Safer: For Aging Parents and For Ourselves

  1. Pingback: More Info on Falling – Aging in Place Tech Watch « As Our Parents Age

  2. Pingback: Changing the Home is Small Ways for Senior Residents « As Our Parents Age

  3. Medical alert technology is also something to consider when housing elderly loved ones. Your aging parent wants the independence and mobility, but you need to know that he or she is safe if there is an accidental fall or emergency. With a base unit and a small wearable button, one can feel safer allowing their aging parent to continue with activities that make them happy. A medical alert system allows their independence with the knowledge that they will get the help they need if something does happen.

    • Medical alert technology is great. However there needs to be buy-in with the parent who is using the system.

      At the time we were supporting my husband’s parents, they wanted nothing to do with medical alert systems. The available choices, via the local hospital, were ugly, invasive, and required them to wear silly chains around their necks. Silly is their word, not mine. Perhaps if there had been an option to buy a small delicate locket with a gold or silver chain my mother-in-law might have bought into the system, but as far as she was concerned it was not useful, it cluttered up her clothes, and she hated it.

      An alert system needs to be non-invasive and not obvious. I’ve seen some that are movement detectors in a house that notice lack of movement over time, which might have worked for my husband’s parents and may work later on for my parents.

      For now, however, many elders have little interest in things that hang around their necks shouting out “elderly” to everyone they see, though I suspect this might change if they have an accident and lie around waiting for help.

      Many, however, would rather risk it, which is too bad. Accidents could be avoided if companies that produce these products would think as much about how things look as they do about safety.

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