Whether you live alone or are taking care of a loved one, making your home
a safe place to live is always a priority. This is especially important
for seniors, who need to be extra mindful of safety concerns that may
be lurking in their homes. Jennifer Brandon, PT MPT GCS, rehab manager
at Hoag Orthopedic Institute, provides her expert insight to ensure seniors
are staying safe.
- What are the biggest safety concerns for seniors living at home?
Safety hazards are often “hidden” in basic household items
such as furniture, rugs or pets. Everyday activities like answering the
phone or walking to the bathroom have an increased fall risk when rushing.
Many medications that seniors take have side effects and can make one
dizzy when first getting out of be in the morning. Finally, as we age,
there are physical changes such as diminished vision or changes in posture
that can impact balance.
- What suggestions can you offer for seniors wanting to stay at home as long
as possible? How can they mitigate these safety concerns?
First and foremost, it is important for seniors to have a strong social
network of friends, family or neighbors – daily contact with someone
creates a support system in times of need. Often, older adults don’t
want to ask for assistance as they “don’t want to be burden”
but they should not hesitate to ask for support or help when needed. Look
for local agencies or senior centers which offer a variety of services
such as transportation, repairs, and errands – my mother’s
set up her Christmas tree. Secondly, BE ACTIVE!! Daily activity or exercise
keeps your muscles strong to maintain balance and prevent falls. In addition,
group classes not only provide activity and social interaction; they keep
the mind healthy too.
- What else should seniors know about staying safe at home?
It usually only requires simple changes to make the home a safe environment.
Consider removing throw rugs or securing the edges and removing clutter
such as cords from the floor. It is important to have good lighting throughout
the home and a nightlight near the bedside or in the bathroom to avoid
tip hazards. A seat in the shower or grab bars increases safety in the
bathroom. Home Safety Checklists can be found on-line for additional suggestions.
A history of falls or frequent “near falls” is often a sign
of balance issues – ask your primary care physician to refer you
to physical therapy for a balance assessment or program.