Aging in place on their own can help keep your parents happy and encourage them to maintain independence. However, aging in place doesn’t mean just continuing the status quo: You need to take steps to ensure that your parents are staying safe at home as they get older. Here are 10 tips that can help aging parents stay at home, from removing trip and fall hazards to getting them adaptive clothing such as women’s elastic waist pants.
Talk things over with their doctor(s)
Aging parents don’t always have the best grasp of how much help they need, especially if they are in the earlier stages of dementia. Some will insist that they can remain independent long after they need daily assistance, while other perfectly capable seniors will demand that you wait on them hand and foot. Keep lines of communication open with their doctor so that you can have an objective opinion on whether or not it’s safe for your aging parents to continue living independently.
Take stock of their current living situation
Not every house or apartment is equally well-suited for aging in place. Conduct an audit of your parents’ current place to determine if it’s a) safe for them to continue living indefinitely, and b) what changes need to be made to it to make it safer. Even the most optimal housing will probably need some updates, even if they are just simple fixes that you can easily make without hiring a contractor.
Remove trip and fall hazards
Some of the biggest dangers to seniors are trip and fall hazards, such as poorly placed electrical cords, loose rugs, and clutter on the floor. Go through your parent’s house and remove everything from the floor that could potentially cause them to fall. If they have small pets that tend to get underfoot, discuss options that can reduce their risks of falls, such as having a family member adopt the animal or using gates to keep it confined to only part of the house.
Add more lighting
Another common cause of falls in seniors is the inability to see where they are putting their feet. Thus, it’s critical to change out lightbulbs as soon as they burn out and to use bulbs that are bright enough to fully illuminate the floor. If your parents’ house does not have adequate overhead lighting, you may need to supplement with additional lamps. You should also place motion-activated night lights in hallways, stairs, bathrooms, and other areas they tend to frequent at night.
Update the bathroom
The bathroom is one of the most common sites of falls in the house. You can make it safer by installing grab bars near the toilet and shower and also investing in a shower chair so that your parents can sit down while bathing. A handheld shower head will make it easier for them to rinse off without standing up. You should also get non-slip bath mats for both inside and outside the bathtub or shower to further reduce their chances of falls.
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Upgrade the kitchen
If your parents are still capable of safely cooking for themselves, making some additions to the kitchen can make things easier for them. Automated devices such as jar openers and can openers will compensate for weakened hand strength, while convection ovens and crock pots that turn off automatically mean that you won’t have to worry about them accidentally leaving the stove on. Store all the essentials in cabinets at shoulder height so they don’t have to bend over or get on a step stool to grab something.
Make personal grooming easier
Getting ready for the day or bed can be very difficult for seniors, especially those who have arthritis in their hands, which can result in a loss of independence as well as dignity. You can make personal grooming easier for them by getting adaptive clothing for women and men, long-handled shoe horns, rubber grips for their toothbrushes and makeup brushes, and other assistive devices.
Hire services for essential errands
As they age, many seniors struggle to take care of common chores such as deep cleaning the house, doing big grocery runs, or washing a load of nightgowns for women. Hiring a service to take care of these tasks for them can help them continue to live independently while removing a lot of the burden off them. Talk with your parents about what tasks are the hardest for them, and look into hiring a maid, meal delivery, or another service that will take care of it for them. If they need help with medical-related tasks, then a home healthcare aide might be a better fit instead.
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Get an emergency alert system
You might want to consider investing in an emergency alert system, especially if your parents live alone. These devices can be used to quickly summon emergency services at the touch of a button if they fall or experience another medical emergency. If your loved ones don’t keep their phones on them, this will give them another way to call for help if they need it.
Figure out your budget for more extensive renovations
While some fixes cost only a few dollars and a little bit of time, some homes need thousands of dollars of professional renovations to make them truly safe for seniors to age in place. Changes such as widening a doorway, installing a stair lift, or putting in a ramp can quickly add up, resulting in a large bill. Before you commit to these renovations, crunch the numbers to determine whether or not it’s financially worth it or if it would be better to move your parents into a place that is already better suited to their needs.
Are your parents aging in place and, if so, what steps have you taken to keep them safe? Let us know in the comments below!
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