Home Instead Blog

Preventing accidents in the home for the elderly
Dec 11, 2013

It is a fact of life that as people grow older, their physical capabilities begin to diminish. This means that they become more prone to accidents and falls, especially in their own homes. Over time, the likelihood of something happening to them which may impede their physical or emotional well-being increases due to the effects of aging, chronic illness, and one’s life style. Such accidents can result in injury, hospitalisation or even loss of independence. The likelihood of accidents in the home can be decreased by a combination of both common sense measures and mindful proactive steps that can be taken before an accident takes place. What follows is a list of modifications that can be made in an elderly person’s home to improve their safety and quality of life.

1. Bedroom
• Fix the height of the bed so it is easy to get in and out of.
• Keep pathways clear around the bed, to the door and to the bathroom.
• Use nightlights to illuminate the path between the bedroom and bathroom – if an elderly person can see where they are going, they are less likely to trip.
• Clothing and stored items should be kept within easy reach.

2. Bathroom 
• Add safety rails in the shower and bath as well as just outside of it, and ensure that they are installed at the appropriate height.
• Install a shower seat and hand held shower nozzle if necessary.
• Affix non-skid bath mats to the bathroom floor.
• Clearly label all water faucets “hot” and “cold” to prevent accidental burns and scalds.
• Add a safety rail near the toilet or consider installing a disabled access toilet which may be easier for an elderly person to use.

3. In the Kitchen

• Make sure everything the elderly person uses on a regular basis are within easy reach. Bring items down from high shelves and get rid of stools that could tempt them to reach for something on a higher level.
• Consider changing from a gas cooker to an electric cooker, as a gas valve left on and undetected could prove to be lethal.

4. General Tips for the House 
• Consider subscribing to a personal safety response service in case of emergency. The elderly person will receive an emergency call button to wear as a necklace pendant, on their wrist or clipped to their belt. If they fall and can’t get up, they can press the call button which will automatically activate an emergency call for help over their telephone.
• Install a large key telephone which is easier to use for elderly people, especially those with sight problems. Program telephones with emergency numbers such as the local doctor, fire station, Garda station, family contact person, a neighbour etc. Also, post a list of these numbers by the telephone.
• Make sure any door thresholds and steps are low and don’t serve as a tripping hazard. If they are too high, remove them or turn them into low ramps.
• Make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are located throughout the home and are in perfect working condition.
• If the home has a stairs, you should install a stair lift which will eliminate the need for an elderly person to climb the stairs.

Keep in mind that not all accidents are preventable. A person can make all the necessary changes to ensure the safety of an elderly person and an accident may still happen. However, if you follow these few tips, you are greatly reducing the chances of this happening.

This article was written on behalf of Oak Healthcare.  Oak Healthcare have been providing bathroom design, disabled bathrooms and installation services to the plumbing industry for over 10 years.