Caring for someone within their home or your own is a great way to maintain comfort and independence for an aging or ailing loved one. As you look to transition the home into a place of care and safety, there are some considerations and likely changes that you’ll need to make. The safety needs will vary depending on the ailment and home layout, but in this article, we’ll go through a few ideas for keeping your loved one safe at home.
Physical Ailment, Visual Impairment, or Aging
If your loved one has a physical ailment (something that restricts or limits movement primarily), there are many ways to improve in-home safety. Here is a checklist for ways to improve the safety of the home (as applicable):
Review Trip Hazards. Remove throw rugs, donate or sell extra furniture, declutter the floors, reroute extension cords, and widen walking paths where possible. The more open and empty the space is, the fewer things there are for your loved one to trip over and fall. You can also get non-slip socks or shoes for use around the house and illuminate (with reflective tape or lights) any hard-to-see stairs with strip lights to reduce the risk of falling.
Gather Emergency Contact Information and Place it Strategically. Gather and place emergency contact information in an accessible location or near a phone. Some numbers to consider include, 911, Emergency contacts (like yourself, other family members or friends, etc.), any professional caregivers, the healthcare provider (PCP)’s office, poison control (800-222-1222 in California or 211 in Orange County), or any other number you can think of that would provide assistance in an emergency.
Fire Safety. Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, check for frayed or damaged/exposed wires, remove candles from the home, install timers on any heating devices so they shut off automatically, and reduce the number of electronics plugged into power strips.
Assess Lighting. We touched on illuminating any hard-to-see stairs, but there are other parts of the home that may need review. Replace burnt-out lightbulbs, add light fixtures to dark rooms, install motion detection lights in hallways, etc.
Review Elevation. Is there anything kept on the second floor that could be moved down to the first? What about tall shelves - is there anything stored up high that could be brought down to be more accessible? It’s also worth testing home or stair railings, stools, or anything else that will need to bear weight for balance.
Check the bathroom. Use non-slip bath mats outside and inside the tub/shower. Install safety rails/grab bars in the shower or tub (or near the toilet). Consider a bath bench and shower hose. Also, limit the thermostat so water can’t get to a scalding hot temperature, and install a nightlight.
Mental Ailment such as Dementia
If your loved one is suffering from a mental ailment (like a form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease), there are additional considerations you may want to make in the home to accommodate.
Scan the Home for Sharp or Dangerous Objects. Scan the garage for tools, the kitchen for large knives, electrical plugs for exposure, remove chemicals (including cleaning supplies) out of reach, and lock guns or other weapons in a safe or consider removing from the home.
Adjust Locks and Hide a Spare Key. Ensure that locks are placed high or low on the door to reduce the possibility that your loved one wanders out of the home. On the same thought process, hide a spare key for yourself outside in case your loved one locks you out by mistake. Install door alarms and alerts that let you know if the doors open.
Lock Away Medications. Someone with a form of dementia may not remember taking their pills or how to correctly dose their medication. Lock away access to ensure they do not accidentally overdose.
Use Assistive Technology Where Helpful. There is a technological solution for nearly everything - consider AI or another form of monitoring so you receive any concerning health alerts, even when away (or especially if you live far away) from your care recipient.
Consider contacting your local Area Agency on Aging for other programs that support safe living.
Providing care to a loved one in their home is a wonderful way to prolong or maintain independence and personal quality care. We hope you found ways to ensure your home is safe for your care recipient throughout your caregiving journey.
For further reading and resources, we invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here. You are also welcome to give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.