According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), individuals aged 65 and older made up 15% of the country’s total population in 2017. It is a trend that can only be expected to grow, with the percentage of seniors being seen to increase to 22% over the next 40 years.
Most older Australians prefer to remain at home as they grow older, making the comfort and safety of homes of paramount importance. Unfortunately, most residences are not optimised for the challenges faced by our elderly in their daily lives. Millions of people aged 65 and above suffer from injuries caused by common architectural features and household items that we often take for granted. Read on below for our tips on how to make your home safer for your aging loved ones.
Ensure quick access to emergency numbers
Many older people suffer from limited mobility and failing vision, which can increase the chances of accidents occurring even at home. It is crucial to have a list of contacts that can be called upon at a moment’s notice during an emergency. It may also be beneficial to have the contact details of an after-hours GP who can be called upon to provide non-emergency care during after-hours, on weekends, and on public holidays.
Common emergency call service numbers in Australia include 000 for police, fire, and ambulance services, and 131 126 for the Poisons Information Centre. Aside from these, however, you should also include in your list the contact number of a family member or a friend that can be called upon in case of emergency. Additionally, also make sure to note down the contact number of the senior’s primary health care provider. Make sure that this list is in a visible location and can be easily found by the senior in your household—and anyone else—at all times.
Reduce the risk of falls
According to the Australian & New Zealand Falls Prevention Society, 30% of adults aged 65 and over will suffer at least one fall per year, and 10-15% of these cases result in grievous, near-fatal injuries. Fall-related injuries also account for a vast majority of hospitalisations among elderly Australians.
You can prevent fall-related injuries that can seriously impact your relative’s quality of life by getting your home’s floors sorted out. Area rugs should be removed or securely tacked down to the floor to prevent slipping. Any loose tiles in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry areas should also be replaced immediately. Moreover, make sure to keep pathways clear by moving any cords and cables closer to the walls.
In addition to the above tips, also consider installing a secure pen for any household pets while the elderly individual is up and moving around. Finally, improving the lighting can also help make potentially dangerous areas in your home easier to see.
Protect against poisoning
A study released by the AIHW in 2014 states that unintentional poisoning accounted for 1% of all hospitalisations among elderly Australians. In 19% of these cases, the main causes were antiepileptic medication, medication prescribed to treat Parkinson’s disease, sedatives, and psychotropic drugs.
Using large print on medicine labels can make it easier for older people to read them. If possible, have a member of the household watch over the relative they are taking the medication to ensure that the correct dosage is taken. You may also opt to sort the pills yourself and store them accordingly in clearly labelled containers, especially if the senior is having trouble remembering the exact dosage they need to take.
Eliminate other environmental hazards
Burns, which are caused by dry heat, and scalds, which are caused by something wet, are injuries to which seniors are also susceptible. Prevent burns and scalding by setting your water heater temperatures to no more than 49°C. Also make sure that there are smoke detectors in place in every room of the home, and ensure that all open flames are put out immediately after use.
In addition to the above, also install adequate lighting in bathrooms, and consider having grab bars installed by the toilet and in the shower area to improve mobility. Rubber mats placed in strategic areas can reduce the risk of slipping. If the senior is having trouble using the toilet or bathtub, consider purchasing a raised toilet seat or tub chair for their use.
With a few meaningful adjustments to your home and lifestyle, you can make your home safer and more welcoming to your elderly loved one.