Caring for your aging parents is a challenging task. It’s hard to witness someone who brought you up gradually lose their strength, mobility, and maybe even their independence.
Sometimes you won’t even notice when the moment comes to pay special attention to their needs. Proud as they are, and out of a desire not to be anyone’s burden but their own, your parents won’t always let you know about the difficulties they face in their everyday activities.
To support them in keeping their independence for many years to come, you need to make their living environment safe first.
Here are some adjustments that can help minimize the risks of injuries and other emergencies.
Ensure Your Parents’ Mobility
Your parents’ mobility is vital to their independence, so you need to support them in making their living space more accessible. Even if your parents don’t have difficulties with their mobility at the moment, adapting their home can minimize the risks of tripping, falling and getting injured.
Statistics are not comforting when it comes to falls: one in four people above the age of 65 falls each year, while every 19 minutes an older adult dies as a result of a fall. Hip and other kinds of injuries are also very common, and their impact on the quality of the affected person’s life can be detrimental and debilitating.
There are several modifications you can make to prevent undesirable consequences:
- Eliminate doorway thresholds wherever possible, as they can be hazardous.
- Adapt hallways and doors so that they are wider, especially if your parent uses a wheelchair.
- Have a stairclimber or create a living space on a single level.
- If you can’t avoid the stairs, make sure they are always clean and put nonskid treads on the steps.
- Rearrange the furniture so the pathways are clear.
- Keep the floor clutter-free. Remove rugs, toys, cords, and anything else your parents could trip on.
- Make the entry to their home step-free.
- Provide them with a medical alert system that is easy to use in case of falls or other kinds of medical emergencies.
Light Their Way
As we age, our vision changes as well, and we need more light to finish our day-to-day tasks. People above 60, for example, need three times more ambient light to read comfortably, when compared to those in their twenties.
To help your parents carry on with their activities in comfort, you can consider:
- installing bright lights in hallways, stairways, and closets
- installing motion-sensor lighting or glow-in-the-dark switches
- putting extra lamps by their beds, armchairs, or wherever they might need them
- having path lights or motion-sensor lights outdoors.
Modify the Bathroom
Bathrooms are the most likely room to slip and fall, and not just for older adults. But, as the chances to fully recover are significantly lower as we age, you need to put extra effort into making the bathroom safe for your parents. Here are some measures you can take to prevent injuries:
- Add non-slip surfaces inside and outside the bathtub or the shower.
- Add grab bars to make it easier for them to get in and come out.
- Use a shower-chair.
- Use bathmats with rubber backs.
- Add a raised toilet and a grab bar next to it.
If they do have a bathtub in their home, the best idea would be to modify it into a walk-in shower. This will make it easier for your parents to use the shower comfortably, as well as reduce the risk of falls.
Provide Special Care for Parents With Dementia
If your parent suffers from dementia or some other condition that impacts their cognitive functions, you’ll need to go a step beyond to ensure their safety. Some of the adjustments needed may include:
- Keeping tools, chemicals, cleaning supplies, and other items that may need supervision locked.
- Using kitchen appliances that have an auto shut-off feature.
- Keeping appliances away from the sink.
- Investing in anti-scalding devices in the sink and shower to stop the flow of water if it’s too hot.
- Remove keys from bathrooms and bedrooms so that your parents can’t accidentally lock themselves inside.
- Limit access to the outdoors so that they can’t wander off.
- Ensure that medications are taken safely.
Although your parents with dementia may have difficulties that put them at higher risk, remember that they also have needs other than their safety, such as the need for social interaction and physical activity. In order to give them the life of dignity they deserve, those needs need to be recognized and supported as well.
Talk to your parents about how you can best support them now or when the moment comes, and make sure they enjoy their golden age as long as they can.
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