Caregiving Essentials: What You Need to Know to Keep Seniors Safe at Home

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So your loved ones are getting older and life is getting a bit more complicated than it used to be. Maybe their vision is getting worse, maybe they have more aches and pains than they did before, and maybe it’s more difficult to walk up and down the stairs. Some elderly people can also suffer from dementia, which might cause them to accidentally leave the stove on or other dangerous mistakes. 

The effects of aging can be worrisome, especially for the senior’s loved ones. If the elder adult doesn’t live in a nursing home, family members often have to make sure their house is set up so that they can live comfortable and safe lives. 

 

Making these changes can feel demanding, and meeting each senior’s specific needs might be puzzling. Wherever you are, we’re here to make sure you’re ready for every situation that a senior might encounter. Here’s everything you need to know to keep your senior loved ones safe at home.

Disclaimer: This Security Baron Guide does not provide medical advice. The content provided here is informational in nature and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for speaking with a physician/medical professional and should not be relied upon solely for ensuring your safety. If you think you are having an emergency, please call your local emergency services.

Why Assessing Home Safety Is Vital for Older Adults

Senior SafetyOkay, so perhaps your Grandpa’s health is right as rain and you’re not worried about him in the slightest. He’s 70 years old and still runs marathons and does CrossFit twice a week. You’re not worried about him at all.

However, you should still remember that he’s a senior and needs to be checked up on.  In fact, One in four older adults over the age of 65 suffer from falls, the majority of which occur at home, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Every year, three million older adults are treated in the emergency rooms for fall injuries, which cost $50 million in total. Patients who suffered from falls are often treated for broken bones, most commonly wrists, arms, hip and ankle fractures, plus brain injuries. In fact, falls are the most common cause of life-threatening brain trauma. Even if a senior collapses and doesn’t injure themselves, the emotional trauma of having fallen can have a lasting impact. 

Of course, the risk of falling isn’t the only thing to worry about. When it comes to quality of life for older adults, we have to be mindful of what medications they are using. We have to make sure they have the right health devices and safe appliances, starting off with their homes.

Related: Xandar Kardian Smart Senior Care

Room-by-Room Safeguarding for the Elderly

How To Senior Proof Homes
How To Senior Proof Homes

There’s so much to think about when you have an elderly person living in your home or living independently. As falls are a common occurrence among seniors, it’s important to make sure that the house is senior-proof, so that even if they fall, there’s nothing they can injure themselves on. You also want to make sure that every room of their homes is easily accessible. This guide provides room-by-room instructions for senior-proofing homes. 

Foyer and Hallways

Consider putting a bench for the front door for seniors.

This is the place where people put on or take off all of their outerwear: shoes, coats, scarfs, hats, bags, and more. Depending on the weather and the person, getting ready to head out the door could be quite the process, especially if they have to balance a ton of gear. To help out older adults, consider putting a bench by the door. That way when it’s time to get ready, they have a place to sit and put their clothes on in a safe manner.

In addition, entrance halls tend to be homes for welcome mats and door rugs. Mats and rugs that aren’t attached to the floor can slip and slide, potentially causing someone to trip. If you have any sort of throw rugs in the foyer, use double-sided tape to keep them from moving or make sure to buy rugs with non-slip backing.

For those with arthritis, round door knobs can be a pain. Replace these knobs with levers instead. Lastly, if you live in a home that has narrow doors or hallways, think about widening them. Seniors who use wheelchairs, walkers or other mobile devices will benefit especially. 

Bathroom

Bathroom Safety for Seniors

Water and slick surfaces make it easy for people to fall, whether elderly or not. That’s why the bathroom is one of the most hazardous places in the house. Every year, about 235,000 people over the age of 15 have been injured in the bathroom, mostly while bathing or showering.

Elderly people are particularly at risk when using the toilet because not every senior can sit and stand. Able-bodied individuals often don’t realize how much strength, balance and mobility it takes to use a toilet successfully. To help elders use the toilet and avoid other bathroom hazards:

  • Consider using a raised toilet seat or a toilet seat elevator: Toilet seats 17 to 20 inches higher make the toilet a more comfortable experience for seniors, according to experts.
  • Install grab bars: If possible, put grab bars on the walls next to the toilet or install safety rail devices or commodes that slink behind the bowl. You should also install grab bars inside and outside of any showers and bathrooms.
  • Place non-slip rubber mats in slippery areas: Put these in front of any sinks and both inside and outside of showers and tubs.
  • Buy a stool or chair for grooming purposes: If your beloved senior loves to groom themselves in front of a mirror, get them a stool to make it easier for them to complete their daily routine.
  • Consider retrofitting your plumbing: You can install walk-in tubs and showers so the elderly in your home don’t have to step over any barriers to take a bath. You can also insert foldable chairs so they can shower sitting down with a flexible shower wand. As for the toilet, you can add a raised toilet seat or install a toilet seat elevator.
  • Make sure the doors lock and unlock on both sides: If anything bad happens in the bathroom, you want to make sure that you can get in there to help.
  • Keep the water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower: Some seniors have impaired senses and slow reaction times, meaning that if the water is scalding hot, they might not be able to notice or change it immediately. Hot and cold water baths can also be dangerous for older adults with health issues. So keep the water at a safe temperature, and if needed, monitor your elders when they hop in the tub.

Drug Safety

Since most medicines are kept in the bathroom, it’s important to be aware of how they are stored so that seniors use them appropriately. 

Seniors and Safe Drug Use

When you check out your senior’s medicine cabinet, make sure to :

  • Clearly label medicines and check that the labels are visible: If the senior suffers from poor vision, create labels with a large font. Also check to see that the medicine cabinet has adequate lighting. You don’t want someone to take the wrong medication and dosage because they were unable to read the label.
  • Toss out old or expired medications: Full disclosure, some studies say that medications can still be effective years after their expiration dates, according to an article from Harvard Health Publishing. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry, particularly if that drug is life-saving. It’s also important to keep in mind that liquid medications can be a welcome environment for bacteria and fungus if you have them long enough. Obviously, you don’t want your senior to put contaminated medications anywhere near their body, so be vigilant when it comes to their medicine cabinet. 
  • Consider ordering bubble packs: This can be a convenient option for older adults who need to take a lot of different medications throughout the day. Ask your pharmacists to organize their pills in seven-day or 31-day bubble packs so your loved one doesn’t have to sort through pills every day. All they have to do is to pop the pills out of the pack at the appropriate time. Pill cases are another option, although they require more effort outside of the pharmacy. 
  • Check for borrowed meds: Sometimes when people suffer from certain ailments and lack medical resourcesSenior Drug Safety, they’ll accept drugs from well-meaning friends and family. Despite their good intentions, sharing medications can be very dangerous. Doctors prescribe drugs according to each person’s unique needs, so one patient’s pills may not be appropriate for somebody else. If you find some medication that wasn’t prescribed to your senior, be sure to alert them of the dangerous of sharing medicine.

Bedroom

Senior Proofing Bedrooms

While bathrooms are the most dangerous rooms when it comes to falls, bedrooms are another area of top concern, especially as seniors get in and out of bed. To senior-proof the bedroom:

  • Remove excess furniture: The fewer pieces of furniture you have, the better. If an older adult doesn’t have the sharpest motor skills, it’s best to create a space that they don’t have to zig-zag through. 
  • Plug in those nightlights: Some seniors make frequent trips to the bathroom at night so it’s important that they can see when it’s dark. This is especially important for older adults with poor eyesight.
  • Place walking aids close to the bed: Make sure walkers, wheelchairs and all other mobile aids are within arms reach of the bed.
  • Install bed rails or floor-to-ceiling poles: Getting up can be extremely challenging for seniors. Try installing bed rails or support poles so that they can use their arms to hoist themselves up.
  • If needed, assist the older adult as they get up: Even if they have support rails or poles, you might want to give them an extra hand when they  get out of bed. Sometimes the elderly person can get up too quickly, which causes dizziness.
  • Remove clutter and keep cords out of the way: This will reduce the likelihood of tripping on anything. If you have any sort of cord on the floor, make sure it is hidden behind furniture or at least out of the major walkways.
  • Fix damaged floors and carpets: Damaged flooring can be a major tripping hazard.
  • Make sure night stands are accessible from the bed: This keeps lamps, medications and any other important items accessible.
  • Ensure that the mattress is not too high: Getting into bed can also be tough for seniors, although the ideal height will vary according to each person’s ability and stature.

Kitchen

Senior Kitchen Safety

When it comes to the kitchen, you want to make sure the room is convenient to use and has senior friendly appliances. The last thing you want is for Aunty to stop cooking because she can’t reach her utensils or for Grandpa to forget that he left the stove on. So to prevent any of that from happening, here’s everything you need to consider:

  • Store frequently-used utensils and food within reach: This could be as extreme as remodeling the cabinets so that they are more accessible, or  as simple as rearranging all of the pots, pans and seasonings so seniors can easily access what they need. A reacher-grabber might also come in handy for those hard-to-reach items.
  • Store knives in a rack: If exposed sharp knives are kept in a drawer with other utensils, there’s a chance that an older adult could accidentally injure themselves. 
  • Buy a comfortable counter stool: Some older adults no longer have the ability or the stamina to cook while standing. A stool would help them significantly.
  • Get a well-lit refrigerator: Refrigerators with clear bins are also helpful. Make sure the refrigerator doors have long, one-piece handles. These are easier to grip for those who have arthritis or any medical condition that causes numbness in the hands and fingers.
  • Label foods with expiration dates: Write in large letters if your elder has trouble seeing.
  • Buy automatic stove shut-off devices: These sensors are great for preventing gas leaks and fires.You can also get appliances like coffee pots and kettles with shut-off features built-in.
  • Install an automatic fire extinguisher: With heat-sensing capabilities, these fire extinguishers should be placed over a stove, automatically putting out any stovetop fire. 
  • Consider replacing the stove with a microwave: For an even safer option, microwaves make cooking much more simple and safe, decreasing the likelihood of a house fire. Make sure to tell your senior how to use it safely!
  • Regularly check your fire and CO alarms: It’s important that these devices work so that you can be alerted if trouble breaks loose.
  • Replace glass items with plastic ones: This way, your senior will avoid having to clean up shattered dish ware. Consider replacing heavy pots and pans with lighter ones, as well; they’ll be much easier to handle.

Related: Technology and the Senior Living Market 

Living Room

Senior Living Room Safety

The living room is where you’ve got your couch, your TV and your decorative furniture. Maybe you’ve got potted plants here and there, a coffee table with a throw rug. While oftentimes the living room is a place to relax, play and host, it can be a minefield for the elderly who don’t always have their wits about them. To make your living room comfortable for older adults:

Replace Senior's Remotes

  • Clear the floors: Watch out for runners, rugs, fallen remotes, loose toys or any other items that could make for a dangerous obstacle. Older adults tend to use shorter and smaller steps than their younger counterparts, so it’s important that all tripping hazards are eliminated.
  • Check the carpeting: If you happen to have a carpet on the floor, make sure there’s no loose thread or holes for people to trip on.
  • Rearrange the furniture: Make sure that there are plenty of open space to move around safely.
  • Use secure furniture and decorative items: Many times seniors with mobility issues use the items around them for balance and stability as they move around. If your living room has a lot of items that can tip over or move easily, consider removing them. Look out for items such as rolling chairs, table lamps or any lightweight furniture.
  • Consider installing grab bars: To eliminate the chances of Grandma grabbing onto an item that can fall over, install some sturdy grab bars where it’s convenient for her.
  • Hide the cords: Minimize the space between outlets and electronic devices so that you don’t have cords running across the living room.
  • Replace your remotes: Many TV remotes have dozens of buttons that can be hard to read, even for younger audiences. Consider replacing them with simplified remotes with larger buttons.
  • Consider buying a senior friendly recliner: There are chairs out there that can lift a person into near-standing position, incredibly useful for seniors who have trouble getting off their seat.

Laundry Rooms

Senior Laundry Room Safety

If the older adult in your life is still washing their own clothes, it’s important that you arrange the laundry room to ensure their safety. Try these tips:

  • Buy easy-to-use appliances: Get washers and dryers that have legible controls located at the front of the machine. If the controls are in the back, they might be hard to reach for people in wheelchairs. In the same vein, front-loading washers and dryers with side-opening doors are more convenient appliances for seniors. 
  • Add easy-roll storage near the washer and dryer: This can be a great place to put all of the detergents and dryer cloths.
  • Provide a seated work area: This makes folding clothes a lot easier.
  • Get a rolling laundry cart: Carrying clothes around in a bin can be too big of a task for most seniors, but a rolling cart can help them transport heavier loads around the laundry room and beyond.
  • Use an adjustable ironing board: This way, seniors can press out their clothes while seated.
  • Install a low clothesline: Have it at a height where your elder can hang the delicates.

Staircases

Senior Safety on Stairs

A person needs to have proper balance, stamina and depth perception to go up and down a staircase safely. But not all stairs are made alike. Some have high and wide steps, some have narrower and low steps, and some are even “open backed” which could mean you can see through to the floor. Not surprisingly, stairs can be a huge challenge for older adults, but there are ways to make stairs easier to handle: 

  • Clear stairs of loose rugs and obstacles: Loose items can make anyone trip down the stairs, senior or not. 
  • Make sure the staircase has good lighting: Light is extremely important for depth perception. If your staircase is dark, consider installing lights along the steps.
  • Consider installing rubber, abrasive treads or non-slip tape: This will help prevent falls.
  • Install secure handrails on both sides: Handrails will help people stabilize themselves on their ways up and down.
  • Consider getting rid of “open backed” stairs: If the house has “open backed” stairs, you may need to do a bit of construction. These types of staircases can cause visual disturbances, messing with depth perception and therefore overall balance.
  • Warn seniors against wearing reading glasses while using the stairs: Bifocals and “cheaters” can hurt one’s perception, causing dizziness.
  • Consider buying a stair lift: If your elder has a lot of trouble navigating the stairs, a stair lift is a great option.

Driveways and Porches

Sweep driveways and porches clean to keep seniors safe.

Because of adverse weather, like rain, ice and snow, uneven surfaces like driveways and porches can be highly risky for older adults. While you can’t control the weather (yet), here are some changes you can make:

  • Sweep everything clean: Make sure all driveways and decks are free of debris.
  • Decorate the porch with waterproof and textured paint: This will increase traction, preventing falls.
  • Paint low curbs with bright paint: If you’re allowed to paint the property’s curbs, this is a great way to increase visibility.
  • Install motion-sensitive outdoor lighting: This way, anytime your Grandpa steps outside, he will have plenty of light to see where he is going, without having to manually turn it on. 
  • Place handrails by any stairs: For added support, use abrasive strips or rubber stair treads to prevent slippage.
  • Salt the driveway when it snows: You don’t want any ice to form on the driveway. Cat litter also works as added traction.
  • Remove protruding tree roots from driveway and sidewalks: These are tripping hazards.

Seniors and Cybersecurity

Senior Home Office Safety

Nowadays, many older adults use computers, cell phones and the Internet in their daily lives. Unfortunately, seniors are the most vulnerable group when it comes to phishing and other online scams. While senior proofing a house is important, it’s also important to protect their online security. Here are some best practices: 

  • Educate seniors about hackers: Explain how dangerous it can be to open a suspicious email or click on a foreign attachment. Perhaps the sender is pretending to be the government, requesting that the recipient send their social security number. The government would never ask for such personal information via email, but not everyone knows this. Hackers can easily take over one’s computer and steal information if people are unaware of such scams.
  • Install malware-fighting software: This software fights viruses and decreases the chances of being hacked.
  • Warn seniors about phone scams: Some criminals will call the house, saying that the senior owes them money or that they just won a free trip, all in service of obtaining their personal information. Tell your older loved ones about these type of scams and get them caller ID to filter out unknown callers. You can also sign up for a “do not call” registry to block telemarketers.

Protecting Older Adults with Dementia

Dealing with Seniors with Dementia
Dealing with Seniors with Dementia

For individuals with syndromes such as Alzheimer’s,  caregivers must be even more vigilant If one of your loved ones has dementia or Alzheimer’s, here are some extra tips to keep them safe:

For senior safety, store poisonous chemicals where they can’t be easily accessed.

  • Make sure locks are out of sight: Older adults with degenerative brain diseases are at risk of wandering outside and getting lost, which can be very dangerous. Place deadbolts either high or low on exterior doors so that they’re out of reach.
  • Store poisonous chemicals where they can’t be easily accessed: Check the kitchen, garage and the laundry room for chemicals that could potentially poison your loved one if ingested. Make sure bottled have secure lids and if needed, add locked lids. 
  • Disable weapons and other harmful tools: Put any weapons or harmful tools in a secure place and disarm any guns around the house. Some elders who suffer from dementia mistakenly believe their caretakers are intruders.
  • Install a hidden gas valve or circuit breaker in the kitchen: This way a person with dementia can’t turn the stove on. You might even consider removing the knobs to the stove altogether.

Support Groups for People Who Deal with Dementia

Dementia Support Group
Dementia Support Group

Taking care for someone who has dementia can be emotionally draining and incredibly heartbreaking. Being a good caregiver not only means being responsible for someone else’s well-being, it also means making sure your emotional needs are met. How can you properly watch over another person when you aren’t in a good place? Thankfully there are plenty of support groups out there to help you to get through a time that can be extremely challenging.

How to Save Money if You Need to Renovate The House

Saving Money for Senior Home RenovationsSometimes making adjustments in the home can come at a huge expense. But before you make any decisions, here are some tips to help reduce the cost of whatever changes you want to make:

  • Consult with a certified Aging-In-Place specialists: Don’t think you have to turn your whole house upside down. Talk with a specialist and they can assess exactly what you need. They can also help you find low and/or no-cost solutions. Occupational therapists are another alternative to home renovations. 
  • Plan ahead: If you are remodeling the tub already and you know you might need some grab bars for your Grandpa, plan for that now. Otherwise, you might have to make more expensive changes later.
  • Hire a contractor to build out larger items: You might be better off having a contractor to build you a custom ramp rather than getting one from a medical supply company.
  • Buy dual purpose items: For example, a grab bar can also act as a towel rack.

Precautions to Take When An Aging Adult Wants to Live on Their Own

best-cameras-seniors

Many older adults maintain great physical and mental health, even in their later years. Because of this, they may choose to live independently and might not need as much hands-on care. While your elder might not need as much assistance, it’s important to prepare for any accidents that can happen down the road. Let’s talk about some preventive measures you can take to make sure our independent elders remain safe and healthy.

Encourage Seniors to Buy a Medical Alert System

Medical Alert Systems for Senior SafetyOne of the major concerns for seniors who live on their own is not being able to get help if they have a health emergency. If the older adult falls in an area of the house, where they can’t reach a phone or any communication device, they could be at risk for more health complications and even death.

Luckily, there are many medical alert systems out there that can contact support — whether that’s medical assistance, a friend or a family member —  immediately when emergencies occur.

Each system has different features and so it’s important that you understand what your senior’s needs are before you make any purchases. When looking at medical alert systems, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want a home-based system or a mobile? Some companies sell home-based systems which connect to landlines. This type of system could suit an older adult who is not as mobile and mostly stays at home. If they have an emergency, they can press their wearable call button and the system will connect them to a dispatcher. But if you’re dealing with a more active senior, a mobile system might be preferable. Mobile systems use cellular and GPS networks to connect older adults to the support they need. So not only do they work in the home, they are useful even when the older adult is out and about. Mobile devices can also help if seniors get lost.
  • Panic Buttons For Senior SafetyDo I want a monitored system? Monitored systems come with call buttons that can connect you with a dispatcher at any time of day. They are available 24/7. Non-monitored systems, however, need to be programmed so that the call button reaches out to all emergency contacts (friends and/or family) and medical assistance. Monitored systems tend to be more expensive, requiring a monthly fee. For non-monitored systems there are no extra costs.
  • Do I want a fall detection feature? Some companies offer this feature for a monthly fee. Fall detection acts like an emergency call button, cutting out the middleman of having to press for help. However, experts say that this technology has not been perfected yet. If a senior happens to drop the device or move in such a way that it registers as a fall, they might be sending off false alarms.

Since smartphones and smart home technology has become commonplace, you might think that a cell phone or a digital assistant might be a great replacement for a medical alert system. But before you make that decision keep this in mind: people do not always have their cellphones on them all of the time and depending on the severity of the emergency, the older adult might not have the ability to dial for help . While digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant could come in handy in emergencies, they can’t currently dial 911. 

The bottom line is this: Talk to the older adults in your life and see which system is best for them.

Other Products That Can Assist Seniors

Products To Keep Seniors Safe
Products To Keep Seniors Safe

While Medical alert systems are for emergencies, there are other devices that can help seniors in their daily routines, including: 

  • Health and activity monitors: These products check heart rates, respiration rates and other vital signs. Some even track ADLs (activities of daily living) so you can be alerted if Grandpa is brushing his teeth and going to the bathroom.
  • Smart pill dispensers can help seniors keep track of medications. Smart pill dispensers: These will automatically dispense the right pills and the right dosage at the right time. Some will also send alerts to notify the user that their senior is taking their medications. 
  • Location tracking devices: Some older adults who suffer from mental health issues get lost when they go out for errands. To help keep track of your loved one, consider buying them a tracking device so you can always find them.

Encourage Seniors to Exercise

Encourage Senior ExerciseAs the saying goes: “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. One of the main reasons older adults are at risk of falling is because they tend to lose strength, balance and coordination not only from aging but from sedentary lifestyles. Exercise is a great way for seniors to maintain a certain level of mobility as they get older.

If your beloved elders aren’t leading very active lives, it might be a good idea to encourage them to develop a consistent workout routine. But what are some safe exercise regimens for people 65 years and older? Well, it depends on each individual and it’s always important to consult a doctor before trying any sort of routine, but here are some ideas:

  • Yoga or chair yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Bicycling
  • Light weight training
  • Climbing stairs
  • Walking
  • Swimming

If the older adult is not sure how to start working out again or if they are afraid of going to the gym, consider getting them a personal trainer that can come to their home. The most important thing here is to encourage Grandma and Grandpa to keep moving, so that they can continue to live active lives.

Senior Driving Safety Tips

Senior Driving Safety TipsIf a senior decides to drive, it’s important that they are aware of their abilities and limitations. Many older adults can drive without any worries, but they still must be vigilant of their safety when they hit the road. Here are some safety precautions you can suggest to mature drivers to reduce their risk of collision:

  • Get routine health checkups: It’s important that older adults get evaluated or seek treatment for ailments that might affect their driving. It’s also important for seniors to check in with themselves to determine if they even feel fit enough to be in the driver’s seat.  If they are suffering from fatigue, pain and/ or stiffness in the joints, a chronic condition or stress, driving might be difficult. Make sure to schedule hearing and vision screenings as well, especially if they have  cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration. 
  • Always wear glasses or contact lenses: This one’s obvious and applies to all drivers, not only seniors.
  • Lower the volume of music: This will ensure that the older adult can hear what’s going on on the road.
  • Increase following distance: Older adults need to give themselves more space between their vehicle and other cars. This way they will have more reaction time to hit the brakes.
  • Brake early: For seniors with less spatial awareness, it’s best for them to brake early as those stop signs/lights approach. That way they won’t have to make any jarring halts.
  • Anticipate rather than react: Advise older adults to scan as far down the road as possible so they know what’s coming.
  • Check any medications: It’s important to read the labels on all medications so that no one is ever driving drowsy or lightheaded. Many medications say “DO NOT DRIVE” if they are too risky to take before a ride. If there is ever any doubts, consult the pharmacist that prescribed them.
  • Adjust driving position: Older or not, this is important for every driver. Check that the steering wheel, driver’s seat, side and rear view mirrors are all in the right positions for safe and effective driving.
  • Avoid dangerous situations: If possible, older drivers might want to avoid driving in harsh weather conditions, during rush hour and when it’s dark outside.
  • Take a mature driving course: These courses are great for learning defensive driving skills. Even if the older adult is a seasoned driver, a refresher couldn’t hurt!

How to Check In On Senior Neighbors

Helping Senior Neighbors
Helping Senior Neighbors

So you don’t have any elderly relatives or friends, but you’re concerned about your older neighbor who lives two doors down. You want to help them out, but maybe you’re afraid of being too intrusive. Don’t be shy! Here are some tips on how you can be a helping hand.

  • Build a relationship with them: Not everybody likes to receive assistance, but the more you get to know a person, the more the barriers will fall, making them more willing to let you help them.
  • Keep an eye on their daily routine: If they haven’t gone to the grocery store in a while or they haven’t gone to their usual spin class, then you might be able to recognize when something’s amiss.
  • Ask if they need any chores done around the house: Maybe they need someone to throw out the trash or clean the gutters.
  • Offer rides to the doctor or other appointments: Perhaps they need someone to take them to the barber to get their haircut.
  • When you are running errands, offer to run errands for them too: If you are going to the grocery store anyway and you have extra room in your car, you can also pick up some things for your senior friend.
  • If you are shoveling snow, shovel your neighbor’s as well: They might appreciate you saving them from back pain.
  • If you haven’t seen your neighbor out, call the police: If the mail and newspapers start stacking up on the doorstep, that could be a red flag that something is wrong. When in doubt, call the cops and ask for a wellness check.

What to Do If An Older Adult Falls

Test Seniors for their Vitamin D LevelsWhether it’s your neighbor or someone within your family, it’s crucial to know what to do when a senior falls. You need to seek out medical assistance as soon as possible because a fall could indicate that there’s a new medical condition that needs treatment. You also need to be familiar with what the doctors need to assess while treating the older adult. Busy physicians might not be as thorough as they need to be when it comes to giving a proper health evaluation. So when you take the elderly to the doctor, make sure they do these assessments:

  • Underlying illnesses: Common illnesses include urinary tract infection, dehydration, anemia, pneumonia, heart problems and strokes. 
  • Blood pressure and pulse readings when sitting and standing: A drop in blood pressure could cause a person to feel faint. If the patient is taking blood pressure medication, the doctor needs to make sure their blood pressure doesn’t drop when standing.
  • Blood tests: A complete blood cell count, an electrolyte measurement and kidney evaluation are generally the best places to start. A drop or increase in blood cells and blood sodium can cause falls. If the older adult has diabetes, bring their glucometer or a blood sugar log. Low blood sugar can increase the risk of falls, but general blood tests don’t indicate every moment blood sugar drops.
  • Medication review: Some medications — like sedatives, opiate pain medications, “Anticholinergic” drugs, and diabetes medications— can seriously compromise spacial awareness and balance.
  • Gait and balance test: The doctor will be able to determine if the cause of the fall was due to pain in their feet, joints, or back. If this is the case, ask for a physical therapy referral.
  • Vitamin D level exam: Low vitamin D levels can also increase the risk of falling as well as lead to fragile bones.
  • Heart and neurological condition scans: These are not the same as the acute conditions that doctors usually look for after a fall. These are usually chronic conditions like Parkinson’s disease that could cause recurrent falls.
  • Vision, podiatry and home safety referrals: Perhaps your elder just needs new glasses or special shoes, or maybe they need a home safety reevaluation. Your doctor can help to start the process.

Independent or Not, Elderly Citizens Can Live Long and Happy Lives

Happy Seniors
Happy Seniors

Aging doesn’t have to be a scary thing — not for the elderly or for the people who take care of them. Proper caregiving involves a lot of preparation and reorientation as the older adult adjusts to lifestyle changes. This process can take some time so it’s important that everyone involved remains patient and compassionate towards one another. Elderly citizens can live long, healthy and vibrant lives…especially if they’ve got you to help them see it through.

Adele Jackson-Gibson

Adele Jackson-Gibson

Adele Jackson-Gibson is a writer and multimedia content creator living in NYC. She got her graduate degree in journalism from NYU and her undergrad degree in French literature from Yale University. Her specialty is fitness and sports, but she nerds out about anime, video games and technology. She is passionate about helping people find peace of mind and lends that passion to her work at Security Baron.

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