One of the greatest things we pride ourselves on is our independence … especially true for the aging population known as the “baby boomers.” It starts early! One of our friends was telling us the other day about babysitting their grandchildren and what a joy it was. But it was soon followed with a discussion about how independent and strong willed their two-year-old was. “I want to do it my way” was the message spoken more clearly through behavior than words. But it is true again as we age.
As we retain our independence either by living at home longer or moving in with adult children, we are faced with challenges that are new. Safety for our seniors covers a huge spectrum of issues. LIVING ALONE often requires some assistance from children or friends who often aren’t quite sure what to do to help. For today, let’s just consider a few things to think about caring for your parents … or yourself.
- Many seniors have lived in their homes a long time and are familiar with their neighbors and the area. Some have recently downsized to condominiums or unfamiliar neighborhoods. Wherever you are, make sure your home has deadbolt locks and that you use them. Someone you trust can be given a key if they need to get in. Do not hide keys under a mat or other obvious places. Keep your lights on in the evening, never leave notes on the door explaining where you are going, etc. Outside lights with electronic motion sensors are a good deterrent to unwanted “guests”.
- The inside of your home matters as well and there is lots to focus on there. Keep general clutter to a minimum with unobstructed pathways to walk. Make sure that area and throw rugs are secure and have minimal fall risk. Is there a fire extinguisher close by on each floor with an understanding of how to use it? When is the last time fresh batteries were put in the fire and carbon monoxide detectors? Are the light bulbs bright enough throughout the house for nighttime movement? Are handrails secure? Take a walk around the house and do a general inventory. Oh … and don’t forget to turn the temperature down on the water heater. Seniors are notorious for bathing and cooking issues and if someone gets confused and turns on just the hot water, you can burn easily.
- Medications require monitoring and review as well. Over the years, many of us end up with a collection of medications in our bathroom that we no longer use but since we didn’t finish them, we just hung on to them. Make sure that you only have medications in your home that you are currently taking. Especially when someone is not feeling well, it is too easy to mix medications, forget if they were taken as prescribed and one can unintentionally overdose. Those little daily pill containers are a good idea.
- Those of us who are aging are resisting the loss of independence and so we are exercising, mall walking, jogging, golfing, swimming and just staying active. There are multiple benefits! Remember telling your children to never walk alone? Walk in pairs! Seniors are generally much safer when they exercise and socialize. Friends check in on each other.
- Sometimes seniors are challenged by rapid changes in technology. Nonetheless, technology can be one of the best aids in keeping seniors safe. There are several types of technology that are helpful. Home security alarms are great for physical home safety. Wearable medical alert devices are great and in many cases better than cell phones. We lose our cell phones or misplace them all the time. Do some research on the ways that technology can be helpful? There are great resources out there. (Including your teenage grandchild who knows technology better than any of us.)
That same friend we mentioned at the beginning lives in an “Over 55” community surrounded by peers who are thriving and enjoying life in ways that the previous generation would have never imagined. Taking advantage of some these simple tips can help to keep it that way.