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Basic Home Safety for Your Aging Parents

Updated on March 16, 2013

Making sure for your elderly parents are safe at home is important to prevent accidents and injuries. While you parents are living alone and are still able to perform most activities independently, you will need to take some precautions to be sure that the home is as safe as possible. Consider the following tips to create a very safe home environment for your parents.

The elderly need annual eye and hearing exams.
The elderly need annual eye and hearing exams. | Source

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The Elderly Need Vision and Hearing Exams Regularly

As we get older our vision and hearing become less acute. This means we can suffer from poor vision, lack of peripheral vision or even obscured vision. Poor vision means that your elderly parents are at a higher risk for tripping over cords and other obstacles in their pathway. They may not notice spills on the floor which can lead to falls and other injury. Weakened vision also means that driving is a danger both to your elderly parents and others.

Hearing exams are just as important as eye exams. Decreased hearing can lead to serious danger from fire if unable to hear smoke alarms or stove and oven timers. Poor hearing can also result in injuries from operating lawn mowers and other mechanical devices and being unable to hear if the machine is on. My mother-in-law has lost most of her hearing and is virtually deaf. While on a riding mower one day she cut her fingers badly on the mower blades because she could not hear that the mower was running. Poor hearing can also result in driving accidents.

So, annual vision and hearing exams are a must for safety. If glasses or hearing aids are prescribed be sure your elderly parents wear them daily. Be sure that glasses are cleaned daily and that hearing aids have charged batteries. Their quality of life will be drastically improved with better vision and hearing.

Home Safety for Seniors

Throw rugs can cause slips, trips, and falls.
Throw rugs can cause slips, trips, and falls. | Source

Keeping Walkways and Floors Safe for Your Aging Parents

I have seen so many elderly people who enjoy throw rugs throughout their home. Throw rugs can easily cause a fall resulting in a knee or hip injury. Accidents occur when the walking foot gets planted beneath the edge of the rug. This results in the throw rug becoming entangled in both legs which causes a fall. All throw rugs should be removed from your aging parent's home.

Another common cause for falls in the home is electrical cords that cross walkways or are near chairs. All electrical cords should be run along the walls if possible to prevent trips and falls.

Lastly, be sure the home is well lit. Good lighting is a simple way to reduce the risk of falls in the home.

Bathroom Safety for the Elderly

The bathroom is an area that is ripe for falls and injuries. Bathroom area rugs create slip and trip hazards. The bathtub and shower create an increased risk for falls when used because they become slippery. Bathtub and shower falls are very common and can result in a major injury to the hip, tailbone, or knee.

Prevent falls in the bathroom by installing grab bars in the shower and around the toilet. Be sure to place a rubber no slip mat in the bathtub or shower. Consider placing a shower bench in the tub or shower to allow for sitting during bathing. A handheld shower is also very helpful to shower while sitting.

Kitchen Safety for Your Aging Parents

As we age our memory at times becomes poor. This can make it difficult to remember how long ago food was placed in the refrigerator and how old leftover foods are. It is important to clean out the refrigerator from week to week to remove any spoiled foods, milk and other dairy products. Food poisoning can be a danger in the kitchen due to poor memory.

The oven and stove are also potentially dangerous for your aging parents. Stove burners or the oven can be left on and unattended. Pots can boil dry and foods can burn if timers are not heard or are forgotten. Consider an electric kettle with automatic shut off for boiling water. The coffeemaker should also have automatic shut off. Be sure smoke alarms are working properly and that a fire extinguisher is in the home and ready for use.

Electrical Safety for Your Aging Parents.

Many of our aging parents live in older homes that have limited access to power outlets. I have seen what I call "the spider" growing from a single outlet in too many walls. The spider is an adapter plugged in to a single outlet that allows for an additional 4-6 electrical devices to be plugged in at the same point. This is very dangerous and can cause an electrical fire.

Consider using a surge protector to plug multiple cords into the same outlet. The surge protector can minimize the risk of an electrical fire by turning off automatically if needed. Another option is working with an electrician to place more electrical outlets in the home. This, of course, is more expensive; but you will have the benefit of a qualified professional's opinion of the overall electrical safety of your parent's home.

Medication Safety for Your Elderly Parents

The very first thing I recommend is a thorough cleaning out of any and all medicine cabinets. All medications should be checked for expiration dates. This can be somewhat humorous as you will discover ointments, vitamins, and medications that are decades old! All of items that are expired should be thrown away. Once cleaned out, your parents will have very little in the medicine cabinet, and they will feel like you have taken all of their "good stuff" away. But, they will be safe from any adverse effects of expired medications.

Next, it is important to learn which medications your elderly parents are taking and how often they should be taking them. You may want to consider using a 7 day medication box that allows you to prepare their medications for 1 week at a time. Having a medication box filled each week makes your parent's job of taking their medication so much easier as medication bottles can be difficult to open and your parents no longer have to remember when and which medications need to be taken each day.

One word of caution. Your parents should never share medication. What is prescribed for one of them is not necessarily good for the other. I remember when I accompanied my own parents to a doctor visit. My mother had been prescribed a pain medication when she had a procedure done some months before, and my father was seeing the doctor because he had a new pain. The doctor asked him what he had taken for his pain. My father asked my mother, "What was that you gave me the other day?" And Mom then told how she had shared her medication with Dad. Being a former RN who was managing their medications at the time, I was amazed that this happened right under my nose. Nothing bad happened. But, my father does have a few medication allergies, and this could have resulted in a very serious accident. So, no sharing, please.

Your elderly parents have a great sense of pride and dignity that comes from living a long and independent life.
Your elderly parents have a great sense of pride and dignity that comes from living a long and independent life. | Source

Tips for Caring for Your Aging Parents

As much as possible allow your parents to remain independent in their own home. Provide support, but allow them to make their own decisions and care for themselves until you see any signs that make you believe that they are no longer to get along on their own. Your parents have a great sense of pride and dignity that comes from having lived a long and independent life. Support where you can, and allow normal life to happen as much as possible. Make changes to their home life slowly, if possible, to allow your aging parents to get comfortable with their new situation and their increasing need of care and support.


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    • kansasyarn profile image

      Teresa Sanderson 5 years ago from Rural Midwest

      So glad you found the hub useful. Most of my work in nursing has been with our aging population. So, after two decades I am definitely an advocate for the safe and dignified care of all of the aging. Just wanting to spread the word. Thanks for the comment!

    • gmmurgirl profile image

      Gei 5 years ago from Philippines

      Aging would not be such a difficult phase when facilities needed or are adapted to the needs of elderly people. Great and informative hub, now I am more aware. Thanks!