Sometimes, the most overwhelming issue for a family who has an older adult with limited mobility is rearranging for safety purposes. As we become older, our mobility becomes very limited, making it challenging to move about the home safely. As a caregiver, you must ensure the elder’s safety and help the family adjust to the new changes that are needed. Here are a few modifications that can be done to your client’s home to ensure safety when moving about the home.
Consider These Questions
Depending on if this is a new home or purchased a long time ago, some changes need to be made over time. Changes are required to ensure assessability to the necessary rooms, such as bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. Here are a few questions you need to consider when confronting the elder’s family about these modifications.
- Are there tripping hazards in the exterior walkways and entrances? Are the front entrances well lit?
- Is there an entrance to the house without steps? There should be at least one.
- Where are the elder’s bedroom, kitchen, and full bathroom if the house is a two-story house? It would be more manageable if it were on the first floor.
- If there is a staircase, is it well lit and equipped with sturdy handrails?
- Are their lit switches for the stairs located at the bottom and top?
- Is the kitchen equipped with a working area that can be used while sitting?
- In reach of the stove and oven, is there a fire extinguisher?
- If there are area rugs on hardwood floors, do they have non-slip grips at the bottom?
- On each floor of the home, are there fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors?
When starting with a new client, you want to inspect the home’s exterior and check each room of the house where the elder could potentially be spending time. You want to imagine the most extreme situations when considering rearranging and adding safety equipment to the home. When you have examples for the family to go by, it is easier to comply with these adjustments.
Exterior Modifications to the Elder’s Home
Be sure to start your assessment of the home at the curb. Is the residence visible from the street during dark and inclement weather? You want to be sure to let the family know if it is not. Emergency personnel must be able to see and access the home when called.
Next to be tackled are the driveway and along the walkways. They need to be clear of obstructions and cracks that could become an issue to a walker or a wheelchair. This is a fall risk for the elder. Be sure to let the family know that the home threshold needs to be a flat and even surface. Or there needs to be a ramp installed if there are stairs. Ramps and walkways are slightly textured, reducing water collection and creating traction for shoes, walkers, and wheelchairs. A tip to let the family know if living in a climate that calls for snow, ice melt needs to be handy throughout the winter season. Lastly, consider mentioning motion sensor lights outside the home, so it is easier for the elder adult to see where they are going.
Hallways, Stairs, and Doors
Doorways, stairs, and hallways are usually dark due to the lack of windows in those areas; be sure to tell the family that there needs to be significant lighting. The best way to accomplish the lighting issues in hallways, especially if they are long, is to have light switches on either end. Also, there should be switches at the top and bottom of the staircases.
It is better to have a home free of area rugs. They can be hazardous to the elder if they don’t have the proper grips on the floor. It is much easier to ensure that your elder wears nonslip socks or slippers if their house has many rooms with hardwood floors. For any limited mobility home, be sure not to have rugs at the bottom, top, or on the stairs. It is easy for the elder to slip, which could be fatel.
Another trick to mention to the family is to replace all the knobs of the doors with handles. If the elder is suffering from a disease that is causing their hands to lock up or have mobility issues, they may not be able to turn a knob, but they could push or pull a handle. There should also be a peephole for safety at the comfortable height of the elder.
One of the most dangerous rooms in the house is the bathroom. The most adjustments must be made in there. You want to ensure that you press the family respectfully of the changes that need to be made in the bathroom. Start with the toilet; is it too low? If so, you may need to replace it with something that has an elevated seat. Installing arm and handrails near the toilet and bath or shower is essential. These can be used for support of getting in and out or up or down.
Shower curtains are not safe for the elderly; they should be removed, and if possible, the shower should be walk-in accessible. It is way more manageable for the elderly to walk into the shower rather than stepping over an edge of the tub. Non-slip mats are essential too.
The kitchen should have one accessible workspace where the elder can sit. It can be used for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, even preparing food. If you are thinking of installing one, be sure to have it attached to the wall and that it is strong enough for weight to be pushed upon it. This is just in case the elder pushes against it to stand.
Another dangerous spot in the kitchen is the strove and oven area. One trick to mention to the family is that if they don’t have an appliance stove that doesn’t have controls on the front or closest to the elder, they need a new stove. Having the elder reach over the burners can be very dangerous. Glass cookware is a smart buy because the elder can see through the item and be sure that nothing is burning or sticking to the pots’ bottom. Another trick, have all the heavy items not high up or too low. They should be level so that elders can access it and move it quickly.
Having a family adjusting to these changes can be a lot, but if it is done respectfully and urgently, they are more welcome to the idea of change. They want to keep their loved ones safe as much as you do. These changes don’t only help the elder, but they help you perform your job efficiently and safely. Depending on the elder’s lack of mobility, they will feel like they have more control than relying on you as the caregiver to do everything for them. TLC Home Care is a great facility that teaches their team what to look for when arriving at a new client’s house, especially if these are new adjustments. They provide the best ways to approach families who require simple changes to their home to keep their elders safe.