Home Safety Checklist for Seniors | Onlia

Home Safety Checklist for Seniors

We outline key ways to amp up the safety in your home for senior family members.

Alex Kelly
by Alex Kelly
Multi-generational homes are common, as aging parents may move in with their children for various reasons – whether it be helping with grandkids, downsizing their home, or seeking an alternative option to retirement communities. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to ensure the seniors in your home have a safe environment. If you have an older adult coming to live with you (or even for an extended vacation), ramp up your typical home safety by ticking these things off our home safety checklist for seniors.

Manage trips and falls

As we age, balance and coordination start to wane while bones become increasingly brittle, making trips and falls more dangerous for older adults. Avoid potential spills by tacking down any loose area rugs and encouraging seniors to trade socks for indoor shoes with a grippy sole.

Keep clutter at bay throughout the house, ensuring hallways and stairways are free of obstructions, like toys. Try illuminating halls and stairs with nightlights or inset lighting to increase visibility. On staircases, make sure each riser is visible – try contrasting paint colours, a runner, or lights. While all staircases require a railing for safety code compliance, ensure it’s a sturdy one that can hold an adult's weight, should they need to lean on it.

Trips and falls can happen outdoors, too, so it’s important to assess the risks outside your home. Sidewalks, driveways, and paths outside should have even surfaces, with any that are cracked or shifting requiring repair. In the winter, driveways and walkways should be cleared of ice and snow.

Increase accessibility

Introducing a senior parent into your home is a change for everyone. Limited accessibility may require modifications in the home to ensure older adults are comfortable and safe.

Offering a bedroom on the ground floor avoids frequent use of the stairs. If upstairs bedrooms are the only option, consider installing a stairlift if your senior has limited mobility. For older adults who use a wheelchair or walker, consider doorways' width and elevation rises between rooms; these may need to be modified to allow for greater accessibility.

Outfit the bathroom

There are small things you can check on and install in the bathroom to make like a little easier for your senior family member; make sure that smaller area rugs are secure, both the toilet and shower have grab bars, and the toilet has an elevated seat. The shower should have a bath mat well suctioned to the tub, providing more traction on what can be a slippery surface. The best option for a safe bathroom? A walk or roll-in shower stall that cancels out the need to step over a high tub wall.

Medications stored in the bathroom should be in a cool, dry place, out of reach of any young family members. Medication mix-ups can be hazardous – if not fatal – so it’s imperative to keep them safe and select the correct ones. Pharmacies may be able to dispense medications organized in daily blister packages, making it easy to take the right ones at the right time. If reading small type is becoming difficult for your senior, ask the pharmacist to increase the font size and switch to easier-to-open packaging.

Use technology as a tool

Technology may not seem like a necessary safety hack around the house, but it can be useful in many scenarios. The camera on a smartphone can help to zoom in on a label or other reading material (for a lo-fi option, keep a magnifying glass around). If your phone has a virtual assistant (like Apple's Siri), older adults can direct it to do simple tasks, like reading texts or making calls. Reminders and alarms are handy for medication alerts, and the "find a friend" feature is useful to locate family members.

Medical alert bracelets and necklaces can provide an immediate connection, should a senior need assistance at home. Fall sensor cameras can provide peace of mind in the home, while the more modern Apple Watch fall detector can keep older adults safe on the go.

Ask for help

Living in a multi-generational family home can be a busy place, and a lot to take on. One of the best things you can do for the health of yourself (and your family) is to ask for help when you need it. Whether that means delegating more household duties within the family, or contracting out snow removal to eliminate fall hazards, it’s never a bad idea to ask for some extra help.

Enjoy the time together

Creating a multi-generational home can be an enriching experience. With safety top of mind, having everyone under the same roof can be an incredible experience, allowing extended families the chance to build a bond that'll last for a lifetime.

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