Why You Should Perform a Yearly Safety Check of Your Senior Loved One’s HomeWhy You Should Perform a Yearly Safety Check of Your Senior Loved One's Home

When you have an aging parent, it can be difficult to accept that the person that cared for you as a child suddenly needs more care for themselves. When that time comes, it is important to ensure that your parent gets the help they need, or else it could put your loved one at risk.

Why a Yearly Safety Check Is Important

One step you can take to make sure your loved one will get the care they need at the time they need, is a yearly safety check. This is useful for a few key reasons:

1. At a certain point, living alone becomes risky.

Falls are one of the biggest risks you have to be aware of, but they’re just one part of the equation. Seniors that live alone can have trouble eating regular meals. They may also find it increasingly difficult to ever leave the house and potentially experience social isolation and loneliness.

When seniors begin to have more difficulty caring for themselves, the risks they face start to pile up. They likely won’t recognize the problems as they arise, which is why it’s so important for you to check-in with them.

2. Home safety is different for seniors than for other age groups.

A yearly safety check can reveal home safety issues that you can proactively address to help reduce fall hazards around the house. Look for opportunities to install home modifications that will reduce some of the risks seniors face when living alone. Simple additions like grab bars and non-slip mats in the bathroom can make a big difference to how safe basic daily tasks are.

To avoid a worst-case scenario, put time on the calendar now to do a thorough review of your parent’s home for signs of any issues.

3. Your loved one won’t be the best judge of their care needs.

Your loved one may be embarrassed to speak honestly about difficulties with tasks they think should be easy, or they might not want to admit that they need help at all. Many seniors are also less likely to openly admit to issues that they fear will land them out of their home and into a senior living community.

All of this means that you can’t just expect your parent to call you and tell you they think it’s no longer safe for them to live alone; you’ll probably need to be the one to recognize the need and then push to ensure they receive necessary care.

What to Look for During Your Yearly Safety Check

When you’re going through an aging loved one or parent’s home, there are a few things you want to be on the lookout for:

1. Health Safety Issues

Ongoing problems like not getting enough to eat or not keeping up with daily medications are serious health safety issues.

For this part of the safety check, go through the pantry and refrigerator. Do they seem to have enough food there? Are the food options reasonably healthy? If your loved one is having trouble getting groceries and preparing meals, then they may not be getting the nutrients they need each day.

Fortunately, this is an issue with a solution. You can look into Meals on Wheels or start using one of the many food delivery services now available. It’s possible to get ingredients delivered for meals your loved one preps themselves, or to have pre-made meals delivered if they’re struggling with preparing meals.

Also, check the state of their medications. Are they well organized? Does it look like they’re taking all their prescriptions? If it looks like they may be struggling to take the right meds at the right time, electronic medication dispensers can help them stay on top of things more easily.

2. Mental Health Safety Issues

Many seniors start to experience memory problems as they age. These issues often come on slow and get more serious over time. Many seniors that experience these issues can take care of themselves at first, but will reach a point where they need assistance.

Some signs to look for that suggest a change in your loved one’s mental faculties are:

  • A lot of mess:
    • Are they failing to complete chores and letting dust build up or are bugs starting to gather?
  • General maintenance issues:
    • Is the garden or lawn overgrown, or are there obvious repairs needed to the house that they’ve let slip?
  • Lots of clutter:
    • Are there items piling up in the house that they clearly have no need for?
  • Mail piling up:
    • Are they not even bothering going through their mail? Are there unopened bills amongst the ignored piles?

3. Physical Safety Issues

The main thing to focus on in this category is fall or trip hazards:

  • Are rooms organized in a way where it’s easy to run into or trip on pieces of furniture or smaller items?
  • Are rooms well lit and the light switch easy to access when it’s off?
  • Are there items your loved one needs access to that are located in high shelves they’d have to stand on a chair or stool to reach?
  • Are there rugs that get bunched up?
  • Are there steps or stairs anywhere in the house that could cause a fall?
  • What areas of the house are at risk of the floors getting wet and slippery?

Wherever you identify issues, work up a plan to make the house safer for your loved one. Many of these issues can be addressed with home modifications or home monitoring systems, so you probably won’t need to worry about hiring care or a moving a parent to an assisted living community right away.

If you see signs that your loved one’s mind is no longer up to the task of caring for him or herself, then you’ll need to look into a way to get them full-time care, whether that’s with the help of assisted living, caring for them in your own home or with the help of in-home care.

A lot of seniors are resistant to the idea of moving into assisted living, but a good community can improve their quality of life and make them healthier and safer. Senior Advisor makes it easy to find the best assisted living homes in your area, by bringing details for each one all into one place. You can learn about amenities, cost and location, and even read reviews from other families and seniors that have direct experience with a community or home.

Some issues you’ll find in your yearly safety checks will have easy fixes, but some may require a bigger change. Knowing there are good communities in your area to turn to will make that decision easier when the time comes.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

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