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  • A teenage girl with her mother and grandmother in wheelchair at home

    Keeping Mum and Dad Safe at Home

July 2019

As your parents get older, you may notice they need a helping hand with everyday tasks. Here you’ll find some simple ways to ensure they’re safe and happy at home.

Getting older can be hard. Joints don’t work the way they used to, the memory might not be as sharp as it once was and everything seems to take that little bit longer than before. Despite all this, many older people prefer to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.

If you have ageing parents, relatives or friends who are still living at home, it’s natural to worry about them. Here are a few useful tips that could help keep the older people in your life safe and happy in their homes for longer.

Watch out for warning signs

Sometimes, people don’t want to admit when they’re struggling, no matter how old they are. They may worry that they’ve become a burden on their children or younger friends – making them less willing to ask for help.

There are a few common signs that could suggest that your parents are having some difficulty. These include:

  • A messier house than usual
  • Not changing clothes or wearing clothes that are dirty
  • Loss of weight
  • Unopened mail piling up, sometimes leading to unpaid bills
  • Staying at home more often, less driving and fewer trips to the shops
  • Signs of accidents, such as scratches, burns or bruises
  • A loss of interest in people, activities and hobbies.

If you’ve noticed any of these changes or other behaviours that concern you, it’s not necessarily time to tour local nursing homes. There are several simple things you can do to help older people live comfortably at home.

A safe space

You could do an audit of their home environment to make sure it’s safe and reduce the chance of any falls. Spend an afternoon going through their home with this fall prevention checklist in mind, making changes where necessary:

  • Install non-slip mats in showers and wet areas
  • Consider handrails or a seat in the shower
  • Avoid talcum powder on hard floors
  • Apply non-skid tape on steps and consider installing handrails
  • Keep outdoor paths free of leaves and moss
  • Avoid polishing floors.

But it’s not all ramp and rails. Other risk factors include:

  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Alcohol and drug misuse (including prescription medications)
  • Failing eyesight
  • Dizziness, diabetes and other health-related issues.

If you have concerns, start a conversation and – depending on the potential issue – arrange an in-home appointment with a nurse, physiotherapist or counsellor to help remediate any issues. This guide to preventing falls is a useful read, too.

Electrical devices and safety

Electrical safety at home is important for everyone. Older people may use older appliances around the house, which can pose a big risk. Look out for frayed cords or very old heaters or toasters and get rid of them if they look at all concerning.

If your parents use electric blankets, check that they have timers that are programmed to switch off after a certain period.

Also assess other important home safety products. Make sure the smoke alarms have fresh batteries and make a note in your calendar to replace them. Depending on the circumstances, you might also discuss whether they would like the additional comfort of a personal emergency alert device or some form of home security system.

The final word

Helping to keep your mum or dad at home means they can live in familiar surrounds for longer. By making a few changes and reaching out to help when needed, it’s possible to create a safe environment where mum and dad are happy.

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