As the elderly population in the United States continues to rise and families opt for nursing home care over in-home services, ensuring our elderly population is properly cared for is more important today than ever before. The term “nursing home” often conjures negative images, as we commonly associate such places with the waste and loneliness that marked early facilities.
A comprehensive check of basic safety considerations in the care of the elderly is a worthwhile investment in the safety of a loved one. Here are some basic considerations in elder safety:
Evaluate each room for vulnerabilities in electrical safety. No wall plug should be overloaded with extra cords and extension cords should be used only where necessary, secured with tape or other means. Be aware of secondary cord pulling, where a lamp cord may be wrapped around a table leg that might require moving. Check for exposure of electrical cords to heat in the kitchen, such as cords that hang over toasters or other appliances.
Evaluate lighting in doorways, entrances, and staircase. Lighting should be bright, clear, and switches should be easily accessible. Check for glare: lighting should be illuminating but not blinding.
Work surfaces such as kitchen prep areas, above stove and sink, above washing machines, should be well-lit.
Evaluate furniture placement for encroachment into natural walking areas. Check for low-lying obstacles like coffee tables or ottomans that might be missed in peripheral vision. Be cognizant of furniture edges, such as corners that can easily bump or bruise shins. Provide, clear natural pathways in each room and remove excess furniture if necessary.
Rug and Flooring Fixtures
Rugs should be securely positioned with no bunching in the middle and no curling at the edges to cause trips and falls. Rugs should be secured to the floor with adhesive if necessary to prevent skids or slips due to instability.
Be aware of water patterns and areas of the house vulnerable to water safety issues. Bathtubs should have non-skid surfaces underfoot and non-skid surfaces by the tub and sink. Any bathmats should have non-skid rubber bottoms to prevent slipping. Add similarly non-skid floor coverings before kitchen sinks, where splashing of water from dishwashing can create slippery floors.
Check work areas for hanging curtains, towels, napkins, or potholder placement that creates any vulnerability to fire.
Long-sleeved clothing is dangerous in the kitchen for anyone and for the elderly especially. Loose, flowing sleeves can easily catch on pans, causing scalding water to spill. Fabric can catch fire, catch on doorways or doorknobs. Remind elderly family members to secure sleeves by rolling them above the elbow when cooking, and securing the fabric where appropriate during the day.
Be extremely diligent about small appliances like space heaters, clothes irons, electric blankets, and coffeemakers. Make sure they have automatic shut-offs to prevent overheating or accidents.
Make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order and that alerts they generate are loud enough to be heard. If necessary, use smoke detectors with a visual alert system, such as those with flashing lights, as back-up.
Make sure the phone is audible and that a visual alert is provided if hearing is an issue. Check keypad for text size – phones with larger keypad sizes for the visual impaired are available. Check the range area and make sure all cords, the lighting, stools and rugs are out of the walkway. A moderate investment of time is an enormous investment in safety.