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Home Safety Checklist for Your Aging Parent

February 8th, 2010

Written by: Stephanie Erickson, MSW, PSW, LCSW

It is very scary to know that our parents are living alone in their home as they begin to lose physical and cognitive functioning. We want to respect their decision to remain autonomous at home for as long as possible so we search for ways to make this happen. The following is a complete list of all of the areas in your home that present a danger to your parent or loved one, outlines the factors that increase risk and offers concrete suggestions to reduce the identified risks.

Emergency Preparation:

  1. Get the name of neighbor/friend/relative and phone number to contact in the case of an emergency and you are not able to get to your loved one’s home.
  2. Post your name and phone number next to every phone AND give this information to AT LEAST one neighbor/friend.
  3. Obtain the name of a community member, social worker, other professional to contact in the case of an emergency and/or regular updates.
  4. Give an extra key to a neighbor or friend, have an extra key for yourself, and hide one outside the home (if you feel comfortable) so someone can gain access to the home in an emergency.
  5. Register with Medic-Alert or LifeLine and get a bracelet for your parent so he/she can access help if there is a fall. See our website under Resources for a link.
  6. Make sure all legal documents (power of attorney, mandates in the case of incapacity, etc. are updated and complete).

Risk Factors for a Fall:

  1. Over 75 years old
  2. Living alone
  3. Housebound
  4. Use of cane/walker
  5. Previous falls
  6. Acute illness, chronic conditions, tremors (neurological disorders)
  7. Multiple medications
  8. Cognitive impairment
  9. Vision and hearing problems
  10. Difficulty sitting/standing from a chair/bed
  11. Foot problems
  12. Alcohol/drug use
  13. Poor nutrition
  14. Balance/equilibrium problems

Bathroom Safety:

  1. Install grab bars in the bathtub or shower and by the toilet
  2. Use rubber mats in the bathtub or shower
  3. Use a shower chair or bench
  4. Take up floor mats when the bathtub or shower is not in use
  5. Install a raised toilet seat
  6. Remove tub and install a shower with a minimal step-up
  7. Place a chair in shower stall
  8. Use a telephone shower head

Kitchen Safety:

  1. Use automatic tea pot
  2. Remove rugs without a non-stick service
  3. Place frequently used pots and pans at waist level to minimize bending and stretching
  4. Use a microwave to reduce use of oven/stove
  5. Disconnect stove/oven fuses if there are memory impairments and it has been left turned on in the past

Outdoor Safety:

  1. Repair cracked sidewalks
  2. Install handrails on stairs and steps or install a ramp
  3. Trim shrubbery along the pathway to the home
  4. Install adequate lighting by doorways and along walkways leading to doors

Living Space Safety:

  1. Remove throw rugs, or tape down to secure
  2. Secure carpet edges
  3. Avoid visually distracting patterns on flooring/carpets
  4. Mark transitions from carpet to flooring with a different color paint/stripe
  5. Remove low furniture and chairs that are too low to get up/down
  6. Remove objects on the floor
  7. Reduce clutter
  8. Remove cords and wires on the floor
  9. Avoid floor wax or use nonskid wax
  10. Ensure the telephone can be reach while laying on the floor

Stair Safety:

  1. Install hand rails on both sides of staircases at elbow height
  2. Make sure an adult can wrap their hand completely around the handrail
  3. Attach them securely to walls or posts
  4. Secure carpet on treads of stairs
  5. Install light switches at the top/bottom of stairways
  6. Do not reduce lighting in stairways; in fact, increase the lighting
  7. Do not place rugs at the top/bottom of stairs
  8. Leave one hand free to hold the handrail when carrying objects
  9. Check lighting for adequate illumination at night, especially in the pathway to the bathroom and on stairs

General safety:

  1. Wear shoes or slippers that fit properly and have a non-slip sole
  2. Remove reading glasses when walking up/down stairs
  3. Install a telephone on every level of the home, especially in the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom
  4. Install a bathroom on each floor
  5. Understand side-effects of medications, such as dizziness
  6. Avoid alcohol
  7. Avoid carrying large or heavy objects, such as laundry baskets
  8. Get up slowly from a sitting or laying position; sit on the side of the bed before rising
  9. Wear clothing with an elastic waistband for easy removal

For further information, please contact Erickson Resource Group at www.ericksonresource.com

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