How do we make our homes safer for the elderly?
It is a rather obvious fact that as you age, your body is unable to maintain its physical fitness that you had during your younger years. Although it has also been proven that some of the elderly manage to retain their finesse and grace by doing exercises that promote stamina, most of them eventually develop certain conditions or illnesses over time. Some of these conditions or illnesses may affect one or some of the five senses in the body and this will eventually lead to injury hazard. For example, the deterioration of sight and sound will cause the elderly to not be able to see or hear hazard warnings as clearly as before and eventually leave them vulnerable to danger. Therefore, it is very important to ensure your loved one is kept in a hazard-free environment while ensuring they are comfortable at the same time. Considering the fact that most of the elderly population likes to stay at their respective homes, their home is the most ideal environment to begin safety regulations. Even though they may know where everything is at home, however many accidents tend to happen due to clumsiness or letting your guard down at potential household hazards.
- Fall-proof bathrooms
Installing grab bars or handrails in the bathrooms can help prevent falls if there were to be water slips or in case of sudden drowsiness. Besides that, wall-mount shower heads can be replaced with handheld shower heads on a hose as a safer measure. This helps to prevent water from suddenly splashing on their heads which could give them a severe shock. Even if they were able to monitor the water flow by continuously looking up, it wouldn’t be a good thing either because the water might splash into their eyes upon turning on the shower.
- Floor safety
The floors should not be slick or slippery during times when your loved one might want to walk around to do their daily activities. Even if maintenance needs to be done on the floors such as waxing, polishing or mopping, the elderly in the home should be notified to prevent them from walking around too much. Rugs or loose mats that may tangle the feet or have low amount of frictional force against the floor should also be disposed off. Contrasting colour mats should also be used to aid the elderly in differentiating areas to step on e.g. white mats on a black or brown parquet floor. Extension cords and other potential tripping hazards that may present themselves on the floor should also be kept away safely.
The house should be well illuminated in order to aid the elderly vision as their sight deteriorates with age. However this does not necessarily mean changing the entire house into a light shop and becoming the brightest house in the neighbourhood! Instead, carry out regular check-ups and maintenance to ensure the house lights are functioning well. Adding more lights in areas that your loved ones frequent can also help e.g. if they enjoy sewing then add more lighting into the sewing room or areas in the house that they frequent. This may be done by also observing your love one’s walking habits to know which areas do they directly or indirectly pass through a lot at home. Another more innovative approach is by installing wireless LED lights that detect motion as you pass through different parts of the house. Although some may say adding more lighting to the house will increase the electricity bill after some time, the real question here is would you rather pay a double or triple digit cost increase in electricity bill or a ten to hundredfold cost in medical bills?
Although most family members are hesitant about leaving their elderly loved one at home alone and personally would prefer to have a caregiver around to help, some of the elderly population prefer to have their own independence. In situations like these, special devices may be installed around the house to ensure the safety of the elderly. For example, a door monitoring system or CCTV may be added to the front gate to ensure that your loved one is not exposed to any strangers or con artists upon responding to the doorbell. Besides that, a medical device should also be given in case of emergency health situations e.g. if your loved one suffers from occasional asthma attacks. The medical device can trigger a call which will alert paramedics as well as contain a GPS system in case your loved one has fallen unconscious and is unable to respond. Smoke detectors can also be installed in the kitchen if your elderly loves to cook a lot. This is helpful as some recipes passed down from generations may require lots of cooking methods that might produce too much smoke that is dangerous in addition to the hot weather in Malaysia nowadays.