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Identifying Pitfalls Key To Improving Senior Safety

Spoiled food in the refrigerator can be a potential safety hazard.

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A senior’s home -- that was once functional and attractive for a growing family -- can now be a mine field of potential dangers. A few minor adjustments and a little companionship can help seniors continue to live at home for as long as they’d like.

Q. My wife and I are in our early 80s, and we want to continue to live at home. However, we’ve been in the same house for 45 years and feel we should be making some modifications to ensure our safety. What are the most common safety pitfalls in a home?

It’s natural for all of us to become a little unsteady as we get older. But there’s plenty that you can do to help your situation and ensure that you can age safely in place in your own home. First, look around you. An environment that for years had been safe for you and your family may not continue to be so. However, most of these potential safety hazards can be easily corrected.

You already have taken the first step in making your home safer: Identifying the safety pitfalls. Here’s some additional information that may help. In a survey, 5,300 professional CAREGiversSM who work for the Home Instead® network identified the top safety problems that they’ve observed in their clients’ homes.

When asked the question Which of the following safety issues can you identify as being typical when you begin caring for an older client?, here’s what they noticed: Leading the list was loose area rugs, which create a tripping hazard, at 57.1 percent. Next on the list was no alert system for emergencies at 46 percent, followed by spoiled food in the refrigerator at 38.3 percent; lack of a grab bar in the bathtub or shower at 38.2 percent; and no walk-in shower at 37.8 percent.

Other safety issues they observed were cluttered living space making mobility difficult, steep steps, low supply of food, lack of nutritious food in the refrigerator, poor lighting and no telephone near the bed.

Hopefully, this list will help you take stock of the things around your home in need of attention. Some of the items are fairly easy to rectify, such as removing rugs. Others might require more work. If you need more extensive repairs in your home, call your local Area Agency on Aging to find remodelers who can help seniors in their homes. Or contact your local city/county government for a referral to trustworthy remodelers who can help seniors at a discounted price.

Next, make sure that you are getting enough exercise. The weaker that you and your spouse become the more likely it is that you will be vulnerable to a fall. Contact your doctor about whether an exercise program would benefit you and what the best type of program would be for you. A regular walking program could help improve your strength enough that you maintain your balance. An exercise program is also a great way to meet others.

Sometimes it’s beneficial to have someone around the house to assist with cleaning and help you correct safety hazards. CAREGivers from the local Home Instead office complete a comprehensive caregiving and safety curriculum and can identify safety issues in your home which may not be obvious, even to you and your wife.

Last revised: June 28, 2011

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