How to Keep Your Elderly Relative Safe at Home

How to Keep Your Elderly Relative Safe at Home

We understand the importance for elderly people retaining their independence for as long as possible. However, we also understand the concerns that family members can have in the face of a staunchly independent elderly relative, in terms of how safe they are.

Often comes a time for your relative to move in to a care home, where they will soon discover their fears were unfounded. There may also come a time, when a transition to sheltered accommodation would be a good ‘half way house’ until they need round the clock attention.

What can you do in the meantime to keep your elderly relative safe at home?

The Stay Safe Website

The good news is that a whole new website called Stay Safe is jam-packed with all of the information you need to know. The website is the joint effort of Age UK, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the National Training Standards Scams Team.

Here you will find advice ranging from fire and gas safety through to falls prevention and reducing the risk of scams.

Making an elderly relative’s home safe

It is important to remember that it is impossible to remove all risk. However, by implementing the following strategies, you can help to ensure that the home environment is as safe as possible for your loved one.

  • Speak to an occupational therapist: A home visit by an occupational therapist can help you to assess both the home and your relative’s capability. Their expert advice will help you understand everything from where grab rails should be placed, through to products which may make things easier and safer. They will have tips and advice on how to reduce the risks of falls.
  • Make modifications: Armed with this advice, you should be able to make some small modifications to the home to ensure it is safer, but also still feels like home. This may include removing raised thresholds, adding seating to the bath or shower, adding grab rails and putting non-slip matting in the bathroom.

We also suggest that you make some other smaller modifications. Rugs should be removed as they represent a trip hazard. Clutter should be tidied, for the same reason. Scuffed or damaged flooring should be replaced. It can be helpful to replace turn handle door knobs with lever styles.

In addition, ensuring your relative has a seat which is both comfortable, and they can easily get in and out of, will be invaluable for their independence.

  • Take care of the heating: The elderly and those with reduced mobility will feel the cold more acutely. However, they are also in danger or scalding themselves on hot water or things such as hot water bottles.

Therefore, introduce mixer taps which minimise the risk of scalding. Also set the thermostat on water heaters and heating appropriately. It may be beneficial to have remote access to the heating and hot water controls of your relative’s home, using smart technology.

  • Pay particular attention to lighting: As we get older, our eyesight inevitably weakens. More light, and appropriate lighting, can really make a difference, reducing the number of falls and adding to the sense of security.

Use bright clear lighting in areas such as hallways and staircases. Have lamps positioned within reach of where your relative usually sits and make sure these are simple to operate. Use motion sensor lights in areas like their garage, or immediately outside external doors.

  • Make some changes to the kitchen: The kitchen can pose significant hazards for the elderly. Remove unnecessary sharp objects. Ensure your loved one is safe operating their oven. Induction hobs can be beneficial as they turn off when the pot is removed, removing the danger of ‘leaving a ring on’. Consider ensuring they have plenty of healthy and nutritious meals to hand which they can prepare with ease. Try to coincide visit times with meal times so that you can satisfy yourself that they are both eating well and safe.

 Install alarms: Make sure that you install various alarms throughout the property and check them regularly. At a bare minimum there should be fire and carbon monoxide alarms. Fire extinguishers should be placed, at minimum, in the kitchen. If you are installing an intruder alarm, make sure your loved one is confident in its use.

In addition, you may wish to encourage your loved one to use a home emergency wearable, such as a pendant. Should they have a fall, they can press the alarm and feel confident that help will soon be on its way.

  • Keep in touch: The elderly can quickly and easily feel isolated. Do your best to visit them when you can. In addition, encourage other friends, neighbours and family members to visit, and also take your relative out.

If your loved one is confident to do so, communication through video chat can be hugely beneficial.

It is important to recognise when it is perhaps no longer possible for your loved one to stay independent in their own home. If they have experienced a fall, get distressed or anxious easily, or are suffering with memory problems, then it may be time to consider different care.

Find out the benefits of residential care, and feel confident in your decision, by reading our article here.