You may think seniors at home are safe, and for the most part, they are. But others face hidden dangers that you may never have thought of. As someone who cares deeply about an older adult, you want to make sure they’re protected. However, in order to do that, you need to know what to protect them from.
You make sure to change the batteries in your loved one’s smoke detectors twice a year and check that there are no obvious hazards around (like exposed wires). However, this may not be enough to grant them safety from fires. All it takes is a moment where they forget that pile of newspapers by the hearth or walk out of the room while the stove is still on. If your loved one is prone to memory lapses, a constant companion may be the only way to remedy this.
Mental illnesses don’t only affect the younger set — depression and anxiety are seen in older populations as well.[1. “Improving depression and anxiety therapy in seniors,” June 19, 2013, https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/headlines/improving-depression-and-anxiety-therapy-in-seniors/]Declining health, loneliness, and genetic factors all play a part in the development of mental illness. Left undiagnosed and untreated, it can present a serious threat to your loved one’s well-being. Related issues range from a lack of interest in self-care (such as going to the doctor’s or taking their medications) to devastating events such as suicide.[2. “Suicide Rates Are High Among the Elderly,” August 7, 2013, https://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/07/high-suicide-rates-among-the-elderly/?_r=1] Seeing the friendly faces of home health aides on a consistent basis can help older adults cope with these disorders.
Falls are an enormous concern in any living situation that involves older adults. However, if they are isolated at home, falls can be particularly catastrophic since no one will be there to offer immediate assistance. In addition, your loved one may be more prone to falls if they suffer from mobility issues or have a condition that affects muscle strength and balance. Hiring someone to stay with them is your best bet when it comes to minimizing fall risk.
Infection and illness
Unattended illnesses are a threat to anyone, but especially older adults, who may have a multitude of health conditions. If any one of the conditions isn’t looked after properly, they can combine with the others and quickly spiral out of control. In these cases, regular visits from a nurse may be beneficial. This allows chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and general frailty to be monitored as needed.
Infection from unclean conditions is another serious issue in the lives of older adults. Two of the most common places to acquire infections (such as food-borne illness or bacterial/viral disease) are in the kitchen and the bathroom. And it’s not just a coincidence that these are two of the hardest places in the house to clean. Scrubbing floors and countertops requires more dexterity and flexibility than simply dusting or sweeping. If your loved one suffers from arthritis or stiff joints, these tasks may prove too challenging for them. However, having an aide come to the home a few times a week for light housekeeping may easily solve the problem.
Yes, sometimes the biggest threat faced by seniors at home is . . . themselves. Though completely unintentional, if your loved one is in denial about a decline in their abilities, it can lead to a dangerous situation, and fast. Many older adults drive cars long past the point where they should or continue to try and perform other activities, such as lifting heavy objects, that put their health at risk.
If this sounds like your loved one, it may be time for a frank discussion on how to remain in their home safely for the long term.
Get seniors at home a safety assessment today
Unfortunately, the risks above are only a fraction of those that exist for seniors at home. A safety assessment is the most comprehensive way to determine which dangers apply to your loved one – and how to mitigate them. Don’t delay performing this important evaluation, or getting one from a quality care agency. When you make safety a top priority, you increase the likelihood that your loved one can enjoy being in their home for a long, long time.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.