One of the concerns today about seniors aging in place is how to stay safe at home. The most common accidents are falls, burns, and accidental poisonings.
Falls can happen because of tripping over a loose rug for example. Or an injury can occur when cooking and liquid splashes on the senior. Accidental poisoning can be from taking the wrong amount of medication from a prescription or taking the wrong one. It is important to consider everything that can increase falls among seniors at home.
We will cover in this article:
- Physical cause of falling in seniors
- Muscle weakness
- High blood pressure
- Ill-fitting shoes
- Bathroom safety
- Remove rugs
- Installation of assistive devices
- Kitchen Safety
- Food poisoning
- Chemical or medication poisoning
Physical cause of falling in seniors
There are several physical reasons why a senior could start falling or tripping. The risk of falling for a senior does increase with age, and it’s the number one cause of injury in a senior.
When a senior falls, there’s risk of damage to the hip, pelvis, spine, arm, hand or ankles. This type injury can affect the ability of the senior to age in place, and they could end up in a nursing home facility. Plus, the fear of falling can develop in a senior which can cause anxiety issues and reduced travel.
Muscle weakness can develop over time from lack of exercise. This can result in poor balance and an unsteady gait which can cause loss of balance and falling. Starting an exercise program can counteract the decline in muscle strength and better coordination in a senior. Weight training and Tai Chi are also excellent ways to build muscle mass.
High blood pressure:
High blood pressure can cause dizziness and faintness. A senior should be tested a blood pressure assessment test in both the sitting and lying position. If high blood pressure is noted, then the proper medication can bring down the risk of the complications of high blood pressure and stroke.
Different medications can have dizziness and faintness as a side effect. The senior should get all the medicines checked for these side effects if they are having these issues. Talking about their concerns with a home healthcare worker and then the doctor is essential in case a medication change is necessary.
Ill-fitting shoes can be a cause for a senior’s tripping. If the shoe is too big or too small, it can cause walking difficulties. Plus, if the shoe leaves marks when removed, then the senior’s shoes need to be discussed with the person. A new pair of shoes that give a better fit with the less likelihood of the person falling should be purchased as soon as possible.
Home Safety Tips
Bathroom safety is a big concern for seniors. From the slipperiness of the shower or tub, to water split on the floor to trying to get off the toilet safely is a worry. Too, having adequate lighting which isn’t too bright, so the reflection off the sink and mirror isn’t a distraction. Bathroom safety is an important issue and the cause of many accidents among seniors.
Rugs in the bathroom which aren’t gripped firmly to the bathroom floor can cause serious slipping issues. Plus, if the ends of the carpets stick up, then toes or feet can get stuck which can cause stumbling and a bad fall.
As a senior gets older, some confusion may set in. One issue is to make sure the hot and cold faucet is marked predominately. It should be seen from a reasonable distance, so the wrong one isn’t turned on. Scalding can occur if the hot is turned on full blast by mistake. By marking the faucets clearly, this can be avoided.
The shower doors should also be removed and a shower curtain used instead. If a person falls into a shower door or goes through it, serious injury can occur. This can happen quickly if the senior loses their balance in the shower and grabs the shower door for support. Replacing it with a shower curtain can avoid this. Also, using a non-slip bathtub mat for extra grip while in the bathtub or shower makes it safer to climb out of the bathtub.
Installation of assistive devices:
Installing grab rails, a shower chair, raised toilet seat and a hand-held shower head are all geared towards safety in the bathroom. The grab rails are to keep from falling; the shower chair makes it easier and safer to take a shower if a person has trouble standing. A raised toilet set supports wobbly leg muscles, so the person doesn’t fall when rising.
Kitchen safety is a high priority on the senior safety list. A kitchen can be a place of warm family gatherings, but it’s also a safety risk for seniors as well. Being sure that there’s a fire extinguisher in essential to be able to put out grease and other fires. Keeping a stove grease-free by cleaning up spills right away is vital so an unexpected fire doesn’t break out.
Food poisoning isn’t usually too worrisome for younger people, but with the elderly, it’s a different situation. The elderly have a suppressed immune system and can succumb to food poisoning more easily. They also have more difficulty fighting off the aftereffects of it.
Falls in the kitchen can be fast and tricky. Water on the floor from a leaking refrigerator may not even be seen until it’s too late and the senior is lying on the floor. Plus, keeping frequently used items at waist-high so they’re easier to move back and forth is necessary. A lazy Susan helps keep shelves organized and things within easy reach, so there isn’t any stretching or over-reaching.
Chemical or medication poisoning:
Never mix bleach ammonia or other liquids used in cleaning together. Certain cleaning liquids can be poisonous when combined and create deadly gases. Keep all medications in their original pill bottles with large easy-to-read printed labels. Only take medicines in a well-lit room, so there isn’t confusion with the labels or dosage.
Safety at home is an important issue for seniors aging in place. But common sense and following safety rules can keep a senior aging in place without concern. Also having help such a caregiver or family member can prevent elders to fall and avoid hospitalizations.