Each year, hundreds of thousands of older Americans are injured in and around their homes. Many of these injuries result from hazards that are easy to overlook and could have been avoided.
Specific modifications and home repairs can be implemented that will make your aging parent's home safer and more functional. Research suggests that as much as one-third to one-half of all home accidents can be prevented through home modification and repair.
The following list is a good place for you to begin a home safety evaluation for your elder – print it out and take it with you the next time you are visiting.
• Is the sidewalk in good repair?
• Would a ramp be helpful? If there are steps, are they skid-free? Is a railing properly secured? Is the door lock well maintained? Is it easy to get the mail?
Interior - General
• Are smoke detectors in working order? Is there at least one on each floor?
• Is the heater in working order? Have the filters been cleaned or changed? Is the heater set at an appropriate temperature?
• Are all space heaters located where they will not get knocked over?
• Are any extension cords or outlets overloaded? Are any outlets warm to the touch?
• Are doorways, hallways and steps unobstructed?
• Are steps well maintained with skid-free surfaces?
• Are handrails present where needed?
• Is the lighting in the house bright enough (as we age we require more light)? Is the lighting non-glare?
• Are there at least a few lights on timers?
• Is the doorbell loud enough?
• Do electrical cords have safe paths to outlets where nobody has to step over them?
• Are all of the utilities in working order?
• Are all medications in the containers they came in and clearly marked?
• Are all poisons clearly marked and segregated?
• Is there an emergency exit plan?
• Is the water temperature 120 degrees or lower?
• Are the fuses (in the central fuse box) the correct size for the circuits?
Telephones and Computers
• Would your elder benefit from phones with large numeric keypads and enhanced audio systems?
• Is a single phone sufficient or would a number of phones, strategically placed, be better?
• Are emergency numbers posted in large easy-to-read print?
• Would an emergency response system be useful in case of a fall?
• Would your elder use a computer (to communicate with family members, pursuing personal interests, making new friends, etc.)?
• Is the furniture functional? Can your elder get in and out of chairs and couches easily?
• Are end tables sufficiently stable to support your elder if she suddenly leans on them?
• Are all carpets tacked down (edges should not be sticking up)?
• Are lights non-glare and bright enough for reading?
• Has a professional cleaned the chimney within the last year?
• Are all the appliances well-maintained and safe?
• Is it easy for your elder to reach the daily essentials (dishes, pots and pans, food, garbage, etc.)?
• Is there a stable stepstool available for reaching things in high cupboards?
• Do outlets have safety breakers on them?
• Is their sufficient non-glare light?
• Have all drapes and flammables been moved away from the stove?
• Are all medications (including over-the-counter medications) in easy-to-open containers that are well-marked?
• Are faucets easy to turn on and off?
• Are grab bars needed and in place?
• Would a raised toilet seat help?
• Are the bathtub and shower floors covered with a non-stick surface?
• Would a sturdy tub bench or chair be helpful?
• Can your elder get in and out of bed with safety and ease? Is the bed too high?
• Is a light and phone easily accessible from her bed?
• Would a nightlight be useful?
• Is the floor uncluttered?
Who can do the repairs?
• Do it yourself
• Hire a handyman or contractor
• Contact a home modification and repair program through your local Area Agency on Aging
A day spent identifying and implementing home improvement repairs in your elder's home will bring a considerable amount of peace of mind. If you cannot take time to do an analysis and/or the home improvements yourself, find someone who can.
Copyright 1998-2003. CareGuide.com. All Rights Reserved.