Our home is our safe space. But for seniors with mobility or cognitive issues, it can be a dangerous place. One slip on a bath mat or a trip over a lamp cord can lead to a devastating fall, a long-term hospital stay and even life-threatening health complications.
But not all household hazards are so obvious—loneliness or medication mishaps can be as dangerous as fires and falls. That’s why understanding the greatest risks for in-home injuries and illnesses and putting an action plan into place to address them is so important to protecting your loved one’s safety.
Five threats to a senior’s health and ways to lower their risk
As individuals age, family members must step up and ensure they’re safe at home while respecting their autonomy and independence. The following health risks can be minimized by making a few home and schedule modifications:
- Falls and trips – The side effects of aging, like low blood pressure, weakened bones and vision problems, can make seniors more susceptible to falls. According to the CDC, each year, three million older adults are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. To stop a trip at home from becoming a trip to the hospital:
- Use non-slip rugs and tack down any loose carpet
- Replace any furniture with sharp edges or glass tops
- Remove any clutter and obstacles from the floor
- In the bathroom, add handrails, hand grips and an elevated toilet seat
- Install a lift assist device or ramps if needed
- Medication errors – Taking too much medication, not enough medication or skipping medication altogether can lead to a serious health setback. To help your loved one navigate the prescription puzzle, create a schedule together that outlines when pills should be taken and organize them into a pillbox. A talking pillbox or a virtual assistant like Alexa or a Google Home Mini can remind your parent when it’s time for a dose. If your loved one has dementia or other cognitive problems, a caregiver can assist with medication setup and reminders.
- Heat exhaustion – More than 650 Americans die every year from heat-related illnesses, and the majority are people over age 65 who live alone and have underlying health issues. It is common for seniors to leave the air conditioner off in order to save money, not realizing that they are risking their health. During St. Louis’ blazing hot summers, it’s essential to make sure your loved one has their air conditioning running. If you can’t be there to check, ask a neighbor to drop in on them or install a smart thermostat that allows you to monitor the temperature remotely. Cool Down St. Louis provides assistance with utility bills and window units if cost is an issue.
- Burns – This year, 1,200 senior citizens will die from fire-related injuries, especially those from clothing catching fire or burns from hot water and grease fires. To reduce your loved one’s risk, install smoke your parents to avoid wearing flowing fabrics that can catch fire on candles or burners. Simple meals that can be prepared fresh out of the fridge or in the microwave are better choices for seniors with mobility issues who must cook for themselves.
- Loneliness – A senior’s greatest in-home threat is loneliness. Social isolation can affect one’s physical and mental health, upping their risk for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s and dementia. Keeping seniors engaged and active can help. Encourage your loved one to take a class with other seniors. Request that Meals on Wheels stop in with lunch and a visit. Home care services also provide care and companionship.
Get advice from the experts
Custom care at home can lower your loved one’s risk of injury and illness. In addition to direct assistance around the home, a caregiver can suggest recommendations and modifications that can keep them safer when they’re on their own. To learn more about a custom care plan, contact the team at AccuCare Home HealthCare of St. Louis today.