Safety can be a big concern if your parent or another relative is aging in place. Maybe they’re in their own home. Maybe they’re living with you. Either way, you want to make sure they’re not at undue risk for falls and other mishaps. That’s why it’s a good idea to do a senior safety assessment.
Factors affecting senior safety
As we age, our bodies change. Vision and hearing decline, which can make it harder for us to perceive potential hazards in the home. We may become less steady on our feet due to changes in our bones, joints, and muscles as well as in our sense of balance. And if we fall, some of these same changes make us more prone to serious injury.
That’s not to say that aging on its own leads to frailty. Many seniors, particularly those who stay physically active and eat healthy diets, can continue to live fulfilling, vital lives.
But when you add one or more chronic diseases to the equation – things like arthritis, heart and lung issues, neurological conditions, or dementia – home safety can become even more of a concern.
What to look for in a senior safety assessment
Here are a few things you can do to make a home more senior-friendly and reduce the risk of falls:
- Remove throw rugs
- Improve poor lighting in various areas of the home (e.g. stairs)
- Remove tripping hazards like electrical cords or items routinely lying on the floor or stairs
- Install a night-light to prevent stumbling in the dark on the way to the bathroom at night
- Use bathmat or install grab rails around the tub/shower and toilet
The CDC’s Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults provides a more detailed list of hazards to consider.
Is this dementia?Learn more about the changes you’re noticing and what you can do about them in this short 4-minute questionnaire.
Dealing with resistance to change
Of course, convincing your parent that these changes are necessary can be a challenge all its own. You may encounter arguments like
- “My home’s been this way for years and I’ve never fallen.”
- “I’m perfectly fine. I’m just as fit as I ever was.”
- “I like things the way they are.”
- “Making that change would cost too much.”
- “Do I come into your home and tell you how to arrange things?”
Part of the problem is that when you say “I’m concerned for your safety”, they hear “You’re not capable anymore” or “You’re old and frail”.
You may have to come up with imaginative ways of overcoming this sort of resistance. For instance, if your parent doesn’t want a grab rail installed in the bath because of how it will look or the damage it will do to the tilework, see if they’ll accept a grab rail that clamps on the side of the bathtub instead.
Or if you’re handy, instead of nagging your parent to get a broken step fixed, simply show up one day with your toolkit. If they still resist, you could say something like “I’m not doing it just for you, you know. I don’t want the kids breaking their necks when they come to visit you.”
What if home safety risks remain?
It may be that even after doing a senior safety assessment and removing whatever hazards you can, you’re still concerned about how safe your parent is in the home.
If that’s the case, you may want to encourage them to consider moving somewhere that’s more senior-friendly. Perhaps a bungalow or a condo where stairs aren’t an issue. Or a senior living community where housekeeping tasks are looked after, staff are available to help them with bathing, and/or there’s no worry they’ll accidentally leave on a stove element because meals are provided.
If that’s the case, you may want to check out our handy guide, “Should You Stay or Should You Go? How to Decide Between Home and Senior Living.”