Senior Home Safety Assessment
“Home is the nicest word there is.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder
For many seniors, living independently in the comfort and familiarity of their own home is their main desire. We help make this possible for our family members provided they are mentally and physically able to care for themselves. Often times, our elders need assistance in their home so their family may contact an in home care agency to set up services in the home. Extended Family Home Care advocates for and assists the elderly in leading dignified, independent lives within the familiarity of their own home. Our highly qualified, compassionate caregivers provide personalized services assisting with activities of daily living.
Safety is a key factor in seniors maintaining an independent lifestyle. Because of this, it is important to recognize that one of the most common dangers seniors face is falling. In fact, research indicates that injuries and subsequent complications due to falls are the leading causes of death in seniors age 65 and older. One out of three seniors in this age group falls each year. Even though every fall doesn’t result in an injury, these statistics should encourage us to make every effort to prevent falls occurring in our senior loved ones home.
The bathroom is the smallest room in the house and the first room that should be evaluated in a safety assessment. The bathroom has the most opportunities for falls to occur.
There are many things the senior may struggle with in the bathroom. Bathtub edges may be difficult to step over for some seniors. Wet surfaces may cause them to slip and potentially fall once in the wet tub or shower. Standing in the tub or shower may also be very difficult. Other seniors struggle with sitting down on toilets or standing up again after using them. Wet floors following a shower or bath and even bath mats may cause seniors to slip and fall.
Please perform a safety evaluation in the home of your senior loved one to help ensure safety. Begin with the bathroom which is most commonly the dangerous room in the house.
Showers and Bathtubs – Grab bars should be installed in proper places in the bathroom to assist in safe entry and exit of showers and tubs. Consider replacing a tub with a walk-in shower as it may be extremely difficult for some seniors to step over the high bathtub sides. Non-skid bath mats should be applied on the shower or tub floor to aid in preventing slipping. Those that have trouble standing should use sturdy shower chairs or bath benches. Be sure that soap, shampoo and towels are within easy reach.
Toilets – Raised toilet seats are a good solution for those who struggle with sitting and standing up. Grab bars should be installed for additional support as well. Be sure the toilet paper is easily accessible. A floor bathmat with a non-skid material under it just outside the shower or tub to prevent slipping is important.
While these safety tips aren’t guaranteed to prevent falls, they will certainly help to reduce them. Local home improvement stores or durable medical equipment companies carry safety devices such as these. Proper installation of these safety aids and education on how to use the assistive devices are crucial. Safety in the bathroom helps to encourage independent living for our senior loved ones in the comfort of their home.
Living at home is essential to a great quality of life. However, the home may have hidden hazards that place your loved one’s safety at risk. We perform a home safety assessment to reduce the chance of an accident.
What Is a Home Safety Assessment?
A Home Safety Assessment is a comprehensive evaluation. It is designed to enable seniors to live independently and enjoy their accustomed quality of life without danger of hospitalization. As part of our initial assessment, we evaluate the home environment, looking for potential threats to a senior’s well-being.
Then, we provide a set of recommendations to improve home safety. Below are listed some of the most important areas to consider.
- Grab bars
- Toilet risers
- Throw rugs
- Rubber shower mats
- Proper Lighting
- Smoke detectors
- Electrical outlets not overloaded
- Steps and Walkways
- Bathroom bench
You may have noticed a couple of recurring themes in this list. Most of these recommendations focus on increasing visibility and clearing floorspace because falling is one of the most significant threats to your loved one. Not only are falls the most common cause of injury, they can lead to long-term limitations, such as bone fractures.
The second most common cause of accidents is fire. Because of restricted mobility and decreased tolerance for smoke inhalation and burns, your loved one’s living space needs to be clear of fire hazards and equipped with working fire-protection devices.
Is Your Home Suitable for Aging in Place?
For a very large percentage of Americans, aging doesn’t have to mean leaving their homes. But that doesn’t mean everything should stay the same. Quite the contrary. Have you wondered whether your home was appropriate for aging in place? All too often, something happens, like a fall or slip. Then after an injury, we look at our homes differently. Stairs become daunting and high shelves become catapults. To maintain a healthy, safe life in our homes, our homes need to be accessible.
Is your home a good fit for aging in place?
Our homes need to change as we change. That means living in a home with the ability to do all of our daily activities without worry or strain. A livable home and community empowers you to be independent and active. To help seniors achieve a healthy lifestyle as they age in place, the National Association of Home Builders, in collaboration with AARP and other experts, developed the certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS) program to help seniors who want to make their house a beautiful home for a lifetime.
CAPS professionals are trained to:
- Understand industry codes and standards;
- Know the requirements of common remodeling projects and their costs;
- Guide product ideas and the resources needed to provide comprehensive and practical aging-in-place solutions;
- Find solutions to common obstacles that make houses unsafe or uncomfortable;
- And, they can lay out a plan from beginning-to-end so that you can live independently in your home.
How Universal Design Helps
Universal design is a philosophy for designing and delivering products and services that are usable by people with the widest possible range of functional capabilities, which include products and services that are directly accessible (without requiring assistive technologies) and products and services that are interoperable with assistive technologies.
CAPS professionals use the rules of universal design to make a home adaptable, safe and easy-to-use for all residents and visitors, regardless of age, size or ability. Universal design features and products are attractive and stylish, come at all price points and, when incorporated into a home correctly, are essentially invisible.
Here are some of the questions a CAPS professional will ask during an assessment:
- Is there at least one step-free entrance into the home?
- Does your home have a bedroom, full bath and kitchen on one level?
- Are the doorways and hallways wide enough for a wheelchair to pass?
- Do the door knobs and faucets have lever handles, which are easier to use than rounded knobs?
- Are the kitchen counters mounted at varying heights, so they can be used while standing or seated?
- Can the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and shelves be easily reached?
- Does the bathtub or shower have a non-slip surface?
- Are there grab bars in the bathroom, or has the wall been reinforced so grab bars can be added?
- Are the hallways and staircases well lit?
- Are there secure handrails on both sides of stairways?
- Can light switches, electrical outlets and thermostats be easily reached, even when seated?
- Can the windows be opened with minimum effort?
If you have answered ‘No’ to many of these questions, you should probably start thinking of how your house can better suite your needs in the long term. During our free assessment, we also conduct a home safety assessment.
Homes don’t normally come with an instruction manual, but they probably should. Most importantly, family caregivers need to know about the safety of their homes. You can easily take a home’s safety for granted, but it isn’t a topic anyone should gloss over. Illness and disability increase the risk of accidents in the home.
Don’t wait until something happens to act.
The AARP Home Fit Guide
AARP surveys consistently find that the vast majority of people 50 and older want to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible. To help their readers, they’ve created the AARP Home Fit Guide (PDF) or the web friendly version. The guide goes into great detail of what to look for to create and maintain a safe household, possibly a little too much. There is an entire section on energy savings, which is definitely important, but doesn’t necessarily fall into the mix. If you need to learn everything there is to know about home safety, the guide is a one stop shop.
The National Caregivers Safety Checklist
The AARP guide serves as a full class on home safety for seniors, and the National Caregivers Library Safety Checklist is more like cliff notes. You won’t be able to go through a whole house and understand the best ways to optimize the functionality for your aging loved one, but you will know the key tips and pointers. To get a more detailed report, they have a PDF checklist.
A Shortcut to Home Safety
For professional home caregivers to do their job, they need to ensure a safe environment. If you sit down with a Care Manager from a licensed home care agency, they will also provide a home safety assessment. While you should still be able to spot unsafe living conditions, professional home caregivers can provide a carefully trained eye on the unsafe details within a home. Their training and experience will provide insights into home safety that you might not have considered.
The home safety assessment helps reduce risk of an injury without interfering with quality of life. It helps seniors remain independent and healthy in the long run.