Why is home safety important for older adults?
Home safety is essential for older adults because as people age, they may become more susceptible to accidents and injuries in the home. This can include falls, fires, and other hazards. Additionally, older adults may also have chronic health conditions that can affect their mobility, vision, and cognitive function, making them more vulnerable to accidents. Ensuring the home is safe and free of hazards can help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries and promote independence and overall well-being for older adults.
Understanding Home Safety Assessments
A home safety assessment evaluates a person's home to identify potential hazards and assess the overall safety of the living environment. It is typically conducted by a trained professional, such as an occupational therapist. It may include thoroughly examining the home's interior and exterior, including the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, and living areas.
A performance-based home safety assessment is a type of home safety evaluation that focuses on how safe older adults are when performing specific tasks and activities in their home environment. Performance-based home safety assessments typically include observing the individual perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing, cooking, climbing stairs, going in and out of the house, and other functional tasks necessary for independence and well-being.
During the assessment, the therapist will look for potential barriers and hazards preventing the individual from completing these tasks safely and effectively, such as lack of lighting, poor accessibility, or other environmental factors. The therapist will also look for areas where the individual may need additional support, such as mobility, fine motor skills, or cognitive function.
Based on the observations, the therapist will make recommendations for improving the home environment and supporting the individual's ability to perform daily activities safely and independently. This can include recommending specific assistive devices, modifying the home, or providing training on using equipment or adapting tasks to accommodate the individual's abilities.
Performance-based home safety assessments are considered more comprehensive than standard home safety assessments as they focus on how the individual interacts with the environment and how the environment could be modified to improve the individual's performance and safety.
Reducing Tripping Hazards in the Home
Falls are common, and they can happen to people of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among adults aged 65 and older in the United States. Similarly, according to the Government of Canada, 20-30% of seniors experience one or more falls each year, and more than 1/3 of seniors are admitted to long-term care following hospitalization for a fall.
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Tripping hazards are a significant cause of falls, particularly in older adults. Tripping hazards can include items such as loose rugs, uneven flooring, clutter, and poor lighting. These hazards can make it difficult for older adults to see and navigate through their homes, increasing the risk of falls. Falls can cause serious injuries, such as fractures, head injuries, and even death. Identifying and eliminating tripping hazards in the home can greatly reduce the risk of falls and resulting injuries.
There are several ways to reduce tripping hazards in the home, including:
Remove loose rugs and carpets: Loose rugs and carpets can easily be tripped over, so removing them or securing them to the floor with double-sided tape or tacks is best.
Keep walkways clear: Make sure that hallways and stairways are free of clutter and that there is enough space to walk comfortably.
Fix uneven flooring: Uneven flooring can also be a tripping hazard, so it is crucial to repair loose or raised floorboards or tiles as soon as possible.
Add non-slip mats: Non-slip mats can be placed in high-risk areas, such as the bathroom or kitchen, to provide additional traction and reduce the risk of slips and falls.
Improve lighting: Poor lighting can make it difficult to see potential tripping hazards, so it is crucial to ensure that all home areas are well-lit.
Use handrails: If the home has stairs, make sure there are handrails on both sides to provide support and stability while going up and down.
Address any mobility issues: If the older adult has mobility issues, consider using mobility aids such as a walker, cane or wheelchair and ensure they have easy access around the house.
It is important to regularly check and maintain the home to ensure that tripping hazards are identified and eliminated promptly.
Checklist For Home Safety
Keep floors clean and free of spills and clutter.
Use non-slip mats or rugs in areas where spills are likely to occur.
Move frequently used items to lower shelves or within easy reach.
Use stove knob covers to prevent accidents from turning on the stove.
Use a rubber grip on the handles of pots and pans to prevent burns.
Use non-slip mats or rugs in the shower or bathtub
Install grab bars near the toilet, shower and bathtub.
Keep the bathroom well-lit, and ensure that light switches are easy to reach.
Ensure the water temperature is set at a safe level to prevent burns.
Use a raised toilet seat or seat with armrests for added support.
Install a handheld showerhead for easy access.
Remove tripping hazards such as loose rugs and electrical cords.
Ensure that there is enough space to move around the bed and that the bed is at an appropriate height to transfer in and out of
Ensure the room is well-lit and there is a clear path to the door.
Keep frequently used items within easy reach.
Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the room.
Keep walkways and steps clear of debris and well-lit.
Make sure that outdoor stairways have handrails.
Keep lawns and gardens well-maintained to prevent tripping hazards.
Install motion-sensing lights to increase visibility at night.
Make sure that outdoor surfaces are slip-resistant.
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Home Safety Evaluation by Occupational Therapy Extended Interview | Jamie Halvorson, OT & Samantha Drealan, OT | Brookings Health System.