Caregivers: How to protect the elderly in the home

The home may be viewed by many as one of the safest places for the elderly, but this is often not the case. There are potential dangers in every home. Caregivers need to be aware of what these safety risks are in order to remedy them for the future health of the person in their care.

Hazards around the house

There are some steps caregivers can follow in order to considerably reduce risk of injury to the elderly person in their care:

Slips and trips: Be wary of uneven surfaces, worn rugs and loose carpets, and other potential dangers around the house.

No clutter: Boxes, phone cords and other wires, magazines and newspapers (generally all the clutter that finds its way into a house) should be cleared away.

Clean any spilled liquid: Spills are potentially dangerous for people of all ages, but more so for aging people who have weaker bones and muscles.

Easy to reach: Place items that are safe for the elderly person to be use in easily accessible places.

Oversized furniture: Do not use throw rugs and make sure furniture is not oversized.

Lighting: Ensure rooms are lit properly and that the light switch is easily accessible before entering a room.

In the bedroom

There are some simple things that can be done in the bedroom to improve daily activities for the elderly:

Telephone: Put a telephone within easy reach of the bed.

Bed raisers: Adjust the height of the bed to make it easier for the elderly person to get in and out of bed.

Tray: Consider getting an overbed table or tray to make life more comfortable and to promote independence.

Adjustable bed: Choose a bed that is specifically made for the needs of aging bodies and which meets their unique needs.

Bedside light: Make this within easy reach and easy enough to be turned on and off by an elderly person.

Bedside rails: These can help to ensure falls out of bed during the night do not occur and that getting in and out of bed is easier.

In the bathroom and toilet

Subtle changes in the bathroom and toilet can increase the independence of senior citizens and ensure risks are limited:

Raised toilet: Install a raised toilet seat or even consider getting a portable urinal (if required)

Grab rails: Have grab rails in the bathroom and toilet and make sure they are sturdy, and non-slip mats are also a good idea.

Bath aids: Bath steps can make getting in and out of the tub easier, as can bath seats, while bath lifts can make transferring in and out of the bath even easier.

Shower chairs: These will increase the independence of seniors when they wash.

Shower: Choose a hand-held shower head for ease of use.

On the stairs

The stairs have the potential to cause enormous damage if a trip or fall occurs. For this reason, precautions should be in place and safety standards should be followed:

Proper support: Install grab rails on both sides of stairways to make sure proper support is provided, providing assistance where needed.

Lighting: Make sure the lighting can be turned on and off from up and down stairs. Elderly people walking up or downstairs in the dark is not a good idea.

Secure carpet: Make sure the carpet on any stairway* is secure.

Add color: Consider color coordinating the steps to make them more visible.

There are many ways to protect the elderly in the home, but the options you choose should ultimately depend on the person you are caring for and their specific needs. We do not all age the same and we do not require the same levels of support. So make sure to converse with the person in your care and to involve them in the decision making process.

Most importantly: seek the advice of an Occupational Therapist who will be able to properly assess the needs of the person in your care.
About the author:

Carol Robinson works with Manage at Home mobility aids where they provide a range of aids to support the elderly and disabled.


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