HEALTH MATTERS: Minimizing home hazards for seniors

2014-06-10T23:45:00Z HEALTH MATTERS: Minimizing home hazards for seniorsBy Kellie Lindsay For The Gazette The Billings Gazette
June 10, 2014 11:45 pm  • 

For seniors, the place they’ve called home for many years can harbor hazards. Poor eyesight and failing health can combine to make their home a more dangerous place. Each year, one in every three adults ages 65 and older will fall. But fewer than half of those older adults will talk to their health care providers about their fall, or other hazardous conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. So, what should people do to keep themselves or their aging parents safe at home? Removing hazards before they cause a problem is the key to older adults remaining safe in their homes.

Minimize tripping hazards. Remove all throw rugs, including those around the toilet and bathtub. Remove low-standing end tables or coffee tables. Secure any raised or lifted sections of linoleum. Remove extension cords and clutter. Ensure all paths are clear, floors are level and the transitions between different floor surfaces are smooth. Replacing flooring can be expensive, but it may prevent a debilitating injury.

The bathroom can be particularly dangerous. Make sure that the bathtub, shower and floor are slip-resistant. Installing a shower chair and grab bars around the bathtub, shower and toilet can help seniors. A toilet seat riser is also helpful. A walk-in shower/tub is the best bet, if seniors can afford the cost.

Try to eliminate any need for seniors to use stairs. If stairs cannot be avoided, make sure the stairs are level, well lit, and have secure stair rails. A ramp outside may be needed if all the entrances have steps.

Try to keep items within easy reach around the house, so seniors can avoid stretching to reach high shelves or climbing on stools to reach items.

Remove any furniture that rolls, even if it is on carpet. Rolling chairs can shift position unexpectedly. Adding a bit of height to a couch or chair can also make a big difference in the ability of older adults to stand up or sit down safely.

Appropriate lighting in all rooms allows seniors to perform tasks without straining their vision. Make sure lights are easy to reach and easy to switch on and off. Using night lights and having a switch at both ends of a hallway or staircase adds another element of safety.

Don’t forget about the outdoor dangers surrounding a home. Slippery stairs, stairs without railings, uneven or cracked sidewalks and driveways can be particularly dangerous.

No one wants to end up in a nursing home, but a debilitating injury can certainly land your loved one there. Not all injuries are preventable, but we need to do our best to keep seniors as safe as possible.

Kellie Lindsay, RN, director of Home Care and Hospice Services, can be reached at 651-6500 or kellie.lin@riverstonehealth.org.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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