Making a home safe for elderly occupants
Since the economy began to slip, a notable and often newsworthy trend reported on across the country was the growing number of "boomerang" kids. After a brief period living on their own, boomerang kids return to live with their parents, mimicking an actual boomerang that returns to where it started after a brief period away.
While boomerang kids might get the most publicity, another trend has also been steadily growing. According to the Pew Research Center, 20 percent of individuals age 65 and older lived in a multigenerational household in 2008. That marked a 3 percent increase from 1990. While there's no single reason why more and more elderly residents are moving in with their adult children, the still-struggling economy has likely played a significant role. Elderly men and women who lost retirement savings as the market tumbled can no longer afford the costly expense of an assisted living facility, causing many of those people to move back in with their children.
For adult children welcoming a parent or an in-law into their home, a common priority is to ensure the home is safe for an elderly resident. Some safety measures might be easier to plan than others, but the following guidelines should help adults prepare their homes for the arrival of an elderly housemate.
Reduce Risk of Injury in the Bathroom
Perhaps no room can be more difficult or seniors to navigate than the bathroom. Wet tiled floors can greatly increase the risk of falling, so men and women should make sure to have bathroom rugs that are slip-resistant. Slip-resistant rugs typically have a rubber bottom and won't move even if the floor is wet.
Another step to secure the bathroom is to install grab bars on the walls, including in the bathtub and next to the toilet. Also, make sure the towel bars are secure, as seniors might grab onto towel bars if they feel they are about to fall or need to regain their balance.
As for the bathtub, be sure to place a non-skid mat or strips on the standing area. This can help secure arguably the riskiest part of a home not just for elderly residents but all inhabitants of a home. According to the National Safety Council, most falls in the home occur in the bathroom. Securing a slippery tub with non-skid mats or strips can greatly reduce the risk of a fall.
Keep the Home Illuminated
Understandably, many homeowners look to save money around the house, and turning off the lights at night is both common and financially savvy. However, when a home has an elderly resident, it's best to ensure the home is at least partially illuminated. Nightlights should be used in hallways and along the staircase as well as in the bathroom and the kitchen. Elderly residents likely won't be familiar with where the light switches are, at least not immediately. So keep the house at least partially illuminated overnight in case a senior housemate must wake up to use the restroom or get a glass of water in the middle of the night.
Clear Out the Clutter
A cluttered home is a fire hazard regardless of whom is living inside. However, a cluttered home is also a considerable safety risk for seniors. When preparing a home for an elderly resident, be sure the bedroom is not overcrowded. Make certain there is a clear path in which elderly residents can walk around the bed.
Clutter can also collect in the living room. Ideally, elderly residents should have a clear path on which to walk from room to room. Make sure cords from the entertainment system are bundled and not lying open in the floor. In addition, magazine or newspaper baskets should be moved away from where residents will be walking.
Clutter can also collect outside the home, particularly in homes with young children. Explain to kids that their toys need to be put away and kept off of walkways to help Grandma and Grandpa avoid injury. Homeowners who love to work around the house should also clean their work areas thoroughly and put everything away before calling it a day.