Aging at Home Safely; Safe and Independent Living for Seniors

For today’s seniors, remaining in their own home for as long as possible is a primary goal for living in late adulthood. It is estimated that in the United States over 12 million adults age 65 and older live alone. To accomplish this most older adults rely on support networks of helpers including family, friends, and neighbors. With the help if these networks, older adults can often live at home with some degree of safety and comfort.

Members of an older adult’s support network have the responsibility to help the older adult develop plans for maintaining a safe independent living environment. By having the trust and intimate knowledge of the older adult, members can anticipate potential difficulties and help develop a plan for safely living alone.

In this blog, I will introduce readers to assistive technology devices, communication devices, and minor or major home modifications that can provide an enhanced sense of security for older adults who seek to age in place.

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Make it Safe! – When moving an aging parent into your home

Before you move your aging parent or loved one into your home or when you are helping them age in place,  you need a plan to make it safe. Take an objective view of your home from the perspective of someone who uses a wheelchair or is a fall risk.

One option is to call in a pro. A pro can assess the home and recommend modifications and/or remodel projects that will make the living space safer. This assessment can be performed by an occupational therapist, physical therapist, geriatric care manager, or a certified aging-in-place specialist.

Homes may require modifications such as :

  • zero-threshold entryways
  • wide doorways and halls
  • offset door hinges to make room for a wheelchair, walker or two people walking side by side
  • controls and switches that are reachable from a wheelchair or bed
  • a waterproof seat in the shower
  • a stair-climber
  • a raised toilet seat
  • a shower chair
  • a  frameless walk-in shower with a sloped floor instead of a step-over threshold
  • put textured no-slip strips in the bathtub and shower to lessen the chance of a fall

These can be done is a stylish and comfortable manner that is safe for all ages.

Falls are a major concern for aging adults. You can minimize this concern by taking a number of simple steps to make the environment safer. Some examples include:

  • Remove throw rugs.
  • Use rubber-backed bathmats.
  • Move laundry facilities to the first floor.
  • Remove wheels on chairs.
  • Put nonskid treads on steps.
  • Keep steps clear.
  • Apply nonslip wax to floors.
  • If wandering is a worry, you may need to add sensors and alarms.
  • Repair loose carpeting or raised areas of flooring.
  • Move small and low furniture.
  • Clear electric cords and clutter.
  • Add a hall railing.
  • Switch out standard doorknobs for lever handles.
  • Add a raised toilet and grab bars.
  • Remove locks from bedroom and bathroom doors so you can get in quickly, should your loved one fall.
  • Put a railing on the hall wall.
  • Swap out your recliner for one that raises and lowers — to make getting up easier.

You may be able to find assistance by contacting your local area agency of aging or Veterans Affairs office.

Reaching Aids Benefit Seniors

As we get older, reaching for objects becomes difficult. Fortunately, are devices designed to help individuals reach the top of the highest kitchen cupboard, grab clothes from the dryer, and pick up your keys. A grabber is excellent for active older adults, but it’s also wonderful if you’re injured or have limited mobility. Here are a few of the better devices available:

This grabber from VIVE is a best seller on Amazon

Reacher Grabber by Vive – Rotating Grip – 32″ Extra Long Handy Mobility Aid – Reaching Assist Tool for Trash Pick Up, Litter Picker, Garden Nabber, Disabled, Arm Extension

This Grabber will lift 5 lbs and can be used for many applications including; trash pickup, lawn cleanup, and retrieving small objects from high places, low places, and even tight spaces.

Toileting is a very personal activity that adults prefer to perform independently. This can be a difficult task for individuals with mobility issues. This reaching aid available on Amazon can provide the necessary reach to allow continued toileting independence:

Blue Jay the Wiping Wand – Long Reach Hygienic Cleaning Aid, Extends Your Reach Over 15″, Easy to Use, Grips Toilet Paper or Pre-Moistened Wipes, Reaching Aid

This toileting aid can extend your reach over 15″. Ideal for those with limited mobility. Crafted from ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). 

For anyone who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, grabbing hard to reach items can be painful. This 2 pack allow you to place grabbers in multiple locations for easy access. These are highly rated and available on Amazon.

Gripper Reacher Grabber Tool For Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Relief Pick-Up Gripper Best Reachers Grabbers Mobility Aids For Disabled and Elderly 2 Pack Set

 

 

 

Reachers are inexpensive solutions to common mobility issues seniors face. These can provide the needed assistance to help seniors continue to  live independently and safe in their own homes.

If you do decide to purchase a reacher from Amazon, I would appreciate it if you access Amazon from one of the links provided in this article. I receive a small amount of advertising revenue from Amazon that helps fund this site.

Assessing a Loved One’s Ability to Age in Place

A home represents familiar comforts, independence and privacy.  This is why the prospect of moving in with a relative or transitioning into a senior living environment can be one of the most difficult decisions a person will make in their lifetime.  As families struggle with this decision,  powerful emotions can often overpower rational thinking.

The difficult task of determining if a loved one can remain at home safely must be addressed.  Geriatric care managers are professionals who specialize in assisting older adults and their families make long-term care arrangements.  Typically, a GCM will begin by conducting a thorough assessment to determine if the older adult is physically and mentally able to continue living in their own home.  A thorough assessment should include the following topics and questions:

Medication Management

  • Do they remember to take their medications at prescribed doses and times?
  • Have they had any hospitalizations or health issues due to mishandling their meds? If you aren’t sure, look for expired medicines and pill bottles that are spread out in different rooms with no apparent structure or routine.

Meal Preparation

  • Can they cook for themselves?
  • Are they eating balanced meals?
  • Are they able to safely operate appliances?
  • Have there been any incidents where they have forgotten a meal in the oven or accidentally left the stove on?

Safety and Mobility

  • Do they have difficulty getting around or taking stairs?
  • Have they fallen in the home?
  • Do they have a plan in place to contact help in case of an emergency?
  • If mobility is an issue, can the home be equipped with grab bars, an emergency response system and other tools to ensure safety? If they do not use a mobility aid for added stability, would they be open to using one?

Personal Hygiene

  • Can they bathe themselves, groom adequately and launder their clothes and linens?
  • Are they bathing frequently enough? A generally unkempt appearance, body odor and soiled clothing are clues that a senior is unable or unwilling to care for themselves properly.

Transportation

  • Are they still driving?
  • Should they be driving?
  • Do they have alternate means of transportation for doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping and other errands?

Socialization

  • Are they isolated from others most of the time?
  • Do they have friends?
  • How often do they get out of the house?
  • Are they showing signs of depression?

Home Management

  • Is the house clean or in general disarray? Take a peek in each room (including bathrooms) to get a feel for their level of cleanliness.  Keep an eye out for stains on furniture and carpets and spoiled food in the refrigerator.

Financial Management

  • Are they paying their bills on time?
  • Are there stacks of unopened mail, unpaid bills or late payment notices lying around? Are there signs that they’ve been spending excessively?
  • Do they get calls from telemarketers or creditors?

 

As you review the answers to these questions,  know that even if your loved one is experiencing some of these difficulties they may continue to age in place safely with modest home modifications and/or home services.  Interventions such as a cleaning service, meal delivery service, a minor bathroom modification, or a few hours of in-home care may be all that is needed for your loved one to remain at home.