How to make your home safe for seniors

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As your loved ones grow older, you might have an increased concern for their safety and well-being. There are many changes that come with ageing – physical changes can result in the body becoming frail and weak.

“These changes can be associated with a number of emotional changes, psychological and physical consequences such as recurrent falls,” said Specialist Neurologist at Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein, Dr Naazim Siddi Ganie.

“There are a number of medical conditions – neurological or musculoskeletal such as osteoporosis – that may result in recurrent falls.”

One of the consequences of osteoporosis is hip fractures which can have disturbing consequences, including institutionalisation, reduced functional capacity and even death.

But there are ways to prevent and protect your loved ones from further injury.

This safety begins in the home. Fortunately, there are various things you can do to ensure that your home is elderly-friendly.

These safety tips include:

1.       Ensure that your home is well-lit

Having a well-lit home is important, not just for the elderly, but for everybody in the home. Identifies dark spaces in your home and install light fitting or make sure that light does come through from another place.

Make light switches easily accessible and in reach for any person to use. If light switches are difficult to find in the dark. Alternatively, always leave the bathroom light on, especially the bathroom that the elderly person is likely to make use of.

Adding motion sensors to exterior lights can be helpful, too, since they do not require any fiddling with to turn on and off.

2.       Place skid-proof mats in the bathroom

Ensure bathroom safety by using handle bars in the shower, bathtub, and rubber mats on all slippery surfaces.

Opt for putting a slip-proof stool in the shower if you do not have a bath, and ensure that the entrance to the shower is not narrow to restrict movement.

3.       Keep floors clean and uncluttered

Keep floor space free from clutter. These include: electrical cords, newspapers, books and magazines, and children’s toys and pets’ toys and treats.

Ensure that there are designated spaces in the home for your child’s and pets’ toys, magazines, and secure electrical cords to the wall or floor if there is no way to avoid having it on the floor.

Also aim to remove unnecessary furniture and keep all traffic paths clear.

4.       Remove or secure rugs

Replace or eliminate rugs if the edges begin to curl. These are hazardous for children and the elderly alike.

If you choose to keep loose rugs in your home, ensure that it is a slip-proof rug and that is it not entirely in the way of your walking space. Opt for rugs under coffee tables and furniture and removing them from hallways and pathways.

The less chance there is to walk over a rug, the less chance there is of injury.

5.       Install hand-rails

If you have stairs indoors or outside, handrails should be firmly attached and run from the bottom to the top of the staircase.

Making your home a safe haven for yourself or preparing a home for aging loved ones can be a stressful task. Don’t try to do it alone.

If possible, involve other family members to help, and seek help from qualified home care professionals to help ease the burden.

This article is provided through a sponsorship from Pfizer in the interests of continuous medical education. Notwithstanding Pfizer's sponsorship of this publication, neither Pfizer nor its subsidiary or affiliated companies shall be liable for any damages, claims, liabilities, costs or obligations arising from the misuse of the information provided in this publication. Readers are advised to consult their health care practitioner for specific information on personal health matters as this is not the intention or purpose of the publication. Specific medical advice or recommendations on the clinical management of patients will not be provided by Pfizer. In this regard Pfizer does not support the use of products for off label indications, nor dosing which falls outside the approved label recommendations and readers must refer to the Package Insert of any product for full prescribing guidelines

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