Some practical advice from Upstate’s Marjorie Libling, a social worker specializing in geriatrics, for making your senior loved one’s home safe:
In the bathroom:
* Use a nonslip rubber mat for the tub, and also for the floor outside of the tub. Avoid loose towels or rugs on the floor, to reduce the chance of slipping.
* Install grab bars in the bathing area, and invest in a proper shower stool that has rubber feet and a nonskid surface.
* Use a doorknob that cannot be locked, or one that can be unlocked from either side, in case your loved one suddenly needs assistance.
* Label the faucets “hot” and “cold,” and check the water temperature to make sure it is not hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
* Encourage your loved one to bring a phone or a medical alert system into the bathroom with them in case they need help.
* Get a weekly pill box or mechanical medication dispenser so your loved one does not have to open multiple pill bottles each day.
In the kitchen:
* Disconnect the stove if your loved one lives alone and is developing memory problems.
* Use coffee makers or electric kettles that shut off automatically, and label “on” and “off” clearly on any appliances.
* Sheath knives in a drawer or store them safely in a block.
* Move cleaners and chemicals to another room to reduce the chance of mixing them with food products.
* Check perishables every week so your loved one doesn’t consume something that has spoiled.
* Keep high protein healthy snacks visible, as a reminder to eat.
* Dilute wine with water or swap it with nonalcoholic beverages to reduce your loved one’s alcohol intake. Alcohol does not mix well with memory impairment, an unsteady gait and prescription medications.
In the bedroom / living room:
* Consider guard rails that can help your loved one get in and out of bed.
* Minimize blankets and pillows on the bed, so there is less to fall off, and keep floors uncluttered to reduce the risk of tripping.
* Label drawers and closets with the clothing items they contain.
* Tuck away power cords.
* Label remote controls with simple “on” and “off” instructions.
* Replace any burnt out light bulbs, and strategically place automatic nightlights in outlets to assure safe navigation at night.
* Use rug pads or tack down rugs with nails to help prevent falls.
* If your loved one refuses to quit smoking, establish one “safe” smoking spot that is away from the bed, the stove and any chemicals.
* Consider taking control of bank and credit accounts. Television shopping networks can become an addiction, and your loved one may find it impossible to say no to telemarketers.