Even though National Older Americans Month has wrapped up, safety in the home is a year-round issue that caregivers need to be aware of. Just as our parents age we may find ourselves in need of “age-proofing” the home just as we “baby-proofed” the home when our children were younger.
Here are some safety tips that long-time caregivers or those who have recently been thrust into the role should be aware of:
- Medication management. You need to be aware of the medications that your aging loved ones are taking, what the frequency is and what the daily dosage is. You may also want to go through the medicine cabinet to make sure they are taking medications that are not outdated and that they are not continuing to take medications they no longer need.
- Go to the doctor with them. As your parents age and as you take on the role of caregiver, you need to have open lines of communication with your parents’ physician. It might be the best starting point to talk with the family doctor when your parents have their next visit to make sure they are managing their medications correctly.
- Age-proof the house. As part of a spring cleaning, or when buttoning the house up for winter practice spending some time making certain the home is safe and that any potential trip or fall hazards are addressed. Making certain rugs have non slip backs, that the bathroom has grab bars in the shower, that there are no stacks of magazines or other trip and fall hazards and that there are no darkened hallways will go a long way in making sure your parents are safe and are able to continue to age in place.
- Footwear matters. Urge your aging relatives to wear low heeled shoes with non-skid soles. Slip-on footwear is not ideal for anyone who may have a stability issue. Additionally, if your parents are having issues with mobility, you may want to talk to them about using a walker or cane to aid in stability and improve balance.
- Prevent fires. Check smoke detectors to be sure they are in working order and that your parents have not removed the batteries. There should be working smoke alarms in the cooking area, in the living room and outside of all the bathrooms.
- Consider a personal medical alert device as an additional layer of peace of mind protection. If your parents are determined to age in place but have health or mobility issues that are of concern, a personal medical device can be a way to allow them to remain in the home and offer all parties peace of mind that in the event of a trip or fall accident so they can have access to help at the push of a button.
- Is it time to stop driving? There will come a time when it is no longer feasible for your parents to continue to drive. Health issues, diminished reflexes and limited mobility could lead to accidents. If they are determined to drive, ask them to drive during daylight hours and when it is good weather. If, however you notice reasons of concern, talk with them and their doctor to see if they should be allowed to be behind the wheel. Remember that giving up driving privileges could be a major blow to their independence so make sure you and your family members have a plan of action to address their concerns as they relate to grocery shopping, getting to doctor’s visits and staying involved in their social activities.
Helping your parents ease into their Golden Years and helping them remain independent is one of the many tasks you will find yourself faced with as a caregiver.