As we age, our mobility tends to change and decline. Our balance may not be what it once was, our vision may be impaired, our visuospatial skills are lessened and we often find that moving around the house is just not as simple as it used to be. Here are some tips for improving the safety of the home as we age.
1. Pick up throw rugs. We have a tendency to shuffle or not lift our legs as high as we had in the past, which increases our risks for having a fall because we tripped on a throw rug.
2. Mark on uneven surfaces. For instance, use bright colors to distinguish each step in a stairwell. Mark curbs and corners; first and last steps outside. If there is a lip between rooms in the home, be sure to put a bright color on the lip to indicate that the surface is not level.
3. Distinguish the floor from a chair. It may sound silly, but our ability to distinguish one surface from another decreases. Whether it is due to the inability to see related colors and tell them apart or the inability to see the contrast between one item that is closer to us and one that is farther away, it happens. Make sure that if the carpet is white, the seat of the chair is a much darker color.
4. Make sure the walkways are clear. Our reaction time is not what it once was and neither is our judgment for where things are. If we keep the home clutter free, we reduce the risk of falls by not having to navigate through tight or tricky spaces.
5. Increase lighting. If our vision is declining and we can’t see as well in the dark, it is important to have the best lighting possible. Especially focus on adding light to stairways and hallways. Make sure to use night lights at night- especially for bathroom trips.
6. Get a cordless phone. Rather than rushing to answer a corded phone each time it rings, carry the cordless phone around the house with you.
7. Create a safe bathroom. Talk to someone about installing a walk-in shower or getting a shower chair for baths. Put skid resistant mats in the tub. Consider putting grab bars around the toilet.
8. Throw out the step stool. No, seriously- throw it out or give it away. While it is nice to use all of our cabinet and closet space, it is more important to move everything that we need to a height that it can be safely reached. If you need to use a step stool to get something, it’s too high. Considering having someone come in to help you reorganize and downsize. Get everything relocated to a space no higher than slightly above your head.
9. Move your bedroom downstairs. If you’re having trouble with steps, move your bed and nightstand to a spare room on the first floor. You can purchase a room divider if you need more privacy or want to block of a portion of a room for the bed.
10. Have your furnace maintenance done. Make sure to have the furnace checked yearly to ensure it is functioning properly.
11. Make sure that your fire alarms and smoke detectors are active. Local fire companies can distribute these and advise on where to put them.
12. Get your vision checked. Although we expect normal losses, make sure that there are no major health concerns and that your glasses are current.
13. Get your hearing checked. Make sure that you are going to be able to hear the smoke alarms going off in the home in case of a tragedy.
If you feel that you can benefit from any of these tips, give me a call. I can come into your home and make more safety recommendations and connect you with professionals and services that will be most beneficial for your specific needs.