Aging in Your Place: How Older Adults Can Stay Safe and Independent

Home is where the heart of health is – and this is especially true for older adults, from both a physical and emotional perspective, says Michael Ellis, RN, executive director of Henry Ford at Home. “It’s where you connect with family and friends in a comfortable environment.”

But are you and your house ready to grow older together? You both can be, says occupational therapist Bridget Daly, of Henry Ford at Home.

Falling is the biggest at-home risk for older adults, Daly says. As is trying to reach higher than your shoulders, especially for those with arthritis, osteoporosis, shoulder injuries or heart problems. In most cases, fixing risks is easy and inexpensive. Consider talking with your doctor about preventing falls at home. Your doctor may discuss physical therapy programs or hearing and vision tests to improve your balance. Read on for how to create a safer home.

Ready to retrofit? Here’s how to find the help you need

Your neighborhood medical equipment store, hardware store or drugstore should have most of the supplies you need. If friends or family can’t help with the changes you need, check with volunteer organizations in your area. Do-it-yourself stores also have lists of contractors you can hire. Your Area Agency on Aging can point you toward needed in-home resources. Go to mi-seniors.net to find the office nearest to you.

At henryford.com, the Henry Ford at Home section offers guidance and new technology to help more patients stay safe at home. These include Henry Ford home health care,  extended care, private duty care, health products, self-health, home infusions, hospice and e-Home care. Visit henryford.com and search “home health” for more information.

Ask your doctor for a referral for home care. An occupational therapist also can assess you and your surroundings and offer suggestions.

Tips for getting started

Bedroom

  • If you have wood or vinyl floors, remove throw rugs. “When you step off the bed onto an unsecure rug, you can go flying,” Daly says.
  • If you have a tall bed, remove the box spring or take the feet off the bed frame to bring it closer to the floor. 
  • Lower the clothes rack bar to a comfortable height.
  • Keep frequently used items in drawers between shoulder and knee height so they’re easy to grab. 

Kitchen and dining room

  • Leave your most-used pots on the stove and keep your favorite small appliances and storage containers on the countertop.
  • If it helps, remove the doors on kitchen cupboards so you can easily reach the open shelving.
  • Add sliders to the bottoms of chair legs to make them easier to scoot closer to the table.

Bathroom

  • Get motion-sensor lights for the hallway to the bathroom. Wireless models can stick to the wall, need no outlet and cost around $20.
  • Use a shower chair, especially if balance is an issue and place it on a non-slip mat.
  • Install sturdy grab bars attached to the studs and avoid those with suction cups.
  • If you have trouble getting off the toilet, install a toilet riser, grab bar or handrails.

Living room

  • Wear nonslip footwear, especially if don’t have carpeted floors. Never walk around in just socks on floors like tile or wood.
  • Add a piece of firm, high-density foam to the seat cushion of your favorite chair so you sit taller and can get up easier. Furniture risers or blocks of wood secured to the legs of a chair or sofa can bring the chair up 2 to 3 inches. If you don’t need one yet, “don’t get a power lift chair,” Daly says. Try to use your own muscle power as long as possible.

Who shouldn’t age in place?

Not everyone is a good candidate for aging in their home. People with memory issues, especially if they’re alone, may put themselves at risk by staying in their home, Ellis says.

Problem signs: If you can’t remember to take medications correctly or handle your own hygiene and nutrition, then you may benefit from a new living situation.

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Categories: Get Healthy

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