Most people do not usually factor in how easily an elderly person can access a house when it is being built. Thankfully, we now live in the Information Age, and more people are becoming aware of the importance of making life easier for the elderly. Here in Virginia, Senior Care Guide specified that 12% of the population are seniors, and 68% of them are living in the same house with their families. The state also provides assistance for health care and basic needs like food stamps which are handed out every year.
These are compounded with professional elderly care, which is also becoming more available. Maryville University claims that the demand for adult-gerontology nurses will rise in the coming years as baby boomers reach retirement. 10,000 American seniors turn 65 every day, and most of them prefer to age in their own homes. This trend is projected to contribute to an 18% growth in the healthcare sector from 2006 to 2026. This progression shows that steps are being taken towards making life easier for our elders.
Of course, change needs to start in our homes. One way to improve the quality of life for our beloved seniors is to make homes safer and less prone to accidents. Here are some of the most common home accidents among the elderly and how to prevent them.
Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries in adults aged 65 and older. In fact, NCBI revealed that these incidents comprise 75% of injuries among the elderly in developed countries like the US. Falls often result from misplaced objects, uneven floors and surfaces, unstable furniture, and lack of lighting, among others.
One way to prevent them is through installing grab bars and handrails in areas where they may be helpful. These include bathrooms, stairs, etc. Special attention should be given to the toilet, as it is the most accident-prone area in the house. Floors must be free of anything that may cause tripping or slipping.
It's also advisable to provide shoes with non-slip soles. And lastly, ensure that there is sufficient lighting in all areas. For a more comprehensive list, check Caring Village’s article on this topic.
Fire and Burns
Fire and burns are usually due to malfunctions or unsafe, unregulated heat-generating devices. Most incidents that involve scalding among adults 60 years old and above are attributed to physical impairments. The risk is higher among the elderly who regularly use the kitchen.
To prevent accidents like this, install anti-scald devices on sinks, showers, and bathtubs. It would also be best to invest in durable appliances that have easily-accessible safety mechanisms. And for the kitchen, set up smoke alarms and provide seniors with long oven mitts that cover the entire lower arm.
Choking and Other Food-Related Incidents
Food safety is a real concern especially among older people who have problems with their vision, allergies or get confused by product labels. There is also the risk of choking, which is higher among the elderly. Choking usually happens when a person talks or laughs while eating.
To prevent food-related accidents, containers and storage areas should have big, readable labels. Purchase date and/or 'best before' date should also be indicated on the tags. When storing fruits, vegetables and other perishables in the refrigerator, keep the temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help to prolong their shelf life. And when you're preparing food for elders, make sure that the texture and size of the ingredients are appropriate and won’t cause them to choke on their food.
You can also prevent home accidents by making major home design adjustments like installing anti-slip flooring. Just bear in mind that these renovations do not usually come cheap. Here on Caring Village, we created a list of options for financial assistance for home modifications specially designed for aging adults.