Keeping Your Parents Safe at Home
Whether you live across the country or across the street, keeping up with your aging parents can be a challenge. They may not want your help or go to great lengths to prove that they are just fine. If, like most people, their goal is to live at home as long as possible, there are things you should check on when you are visiting to help make that possible.
If you visit regularly, it can be hard to see problem areas. I worked with a family where one daughter lived in Europe and visited 2-3 times per year and the other daughter lived less than 20 minutes away and visited several times a week. It never occurred to the local daughter that the steps into her father’s house were a fall risk or that he probably needed grab bars in the shower. She didn’t see his physical decline since it happened gradually, whereas her sister was startled by how much her dad had declined. It isn’t that the local daughter didn’t care, it was that change can happen so slowly that we don’t notice.
Top Safety Risks for Elderly
Here are my top safety risks to watch for when visiting your parents.
- Home Entry: Is it easy for your parent to get in and out of their home? Can they go up and down front steps? Is there a railing? Does the walkway get slippery? Do they use a walker? If so, how do they manage front steps? I have more home safety tips here.
- Appropriate Flooring and Furniture: Recently, my dad was having a tough time getting up from his favorite chair. It was a bit low and since it was older, the pillows weren’t firm. We recently bought him a new chair that is higher and very firm and he says it has made such a difference for him. Is the furniture at your parent’s house the same furniture they had when you lived there? It may be too low or not firm enough for them anymore. What about the carpet? Is it old and loose? Sometimes carpet can bunch in certain areas as it gets older, making it a really high tripping hazard.
- Clutter Control: Having a house full of stuff isn’t just overwhelming to look at, it can lead to falls. Go through their home and look for things that can cause falls and help them sort out what to get rid of. It can be difficult for them to part with things, but you can find ways to keep them in the family, document them in photos or get rid of the less important stuff to make room for the valuables.
- Fall Risks: If you haven’t evaluated your parent’s home for fall risks, start now with this guide. It is the quickest way to protect them in their home.
- Take Legal Precautions: My family is in the process of getting durable power of attorney for medical and financial needs set up for multiple family members. If you haven’t done this yet, there are a number of free templates online that you can use, or see your family attorney. Preparing ahead of time will help you all feel better in a crisis.
It can be hard to see your parents, who were strong, independent people, struggle. Helping get their lives and homes set up for safety will make all of you feel better.