It’s just a fact of life: as we age we become less, shall we say…agile, nimble, sprightly, dexterous…choose any synonym for quick and spry you like, we simply don’t move the way we used to. We also develop certain ailments that require certain medications and if we continue to live independently as we reach our “senior” years, certain accommodations must be made to these simple facts of life. As I continually tell my kids, “Getting old generally sucks, but you can make some minor adjustments to make it suck less.”
Let’s just accept the fact that accommodations must be made for our continued seniorly independence and those accommodations must be made for the sake of safety. Given that the number one cause of injuries among seniors is from falls (falls are also the number one cause of fatal injuries), the following tips will focus on how to avoid them. Simply stated, do whatever you need to do to avoid falls within and without your home. The other area of concern for seniors is that of medicine and ensuring that they take the proper amount…think Goldilocks here, neither too much nor too little, but the proper amount.
Tips to “fall-proof” your home
- Add rails and grab bars where needed. The two main problem areas here are stairs and the bathroom. Yes, this will probably require the assistance of either a contractor or someone with carpentry skills, but isn’t your safety worth it? Along stairways, both interior and exterior, handrails should line both sides and both should be used, especially when descending. In the bathroom, rails should be added in and around the tub/shower and around the toilet to prevent slipping and to assist with sitting and standing.
- Remove excess clutter throughout the home. “Clutter,” in this instance, refers to anything that could be a tripping hazard and can include shoes (while not on your feet), magazines, pet toys, books, clothes, and trash in any form. “Everything has a place and there’s a place for everything,” as my dad is still fond of telling me when I leave one of his tools in a place other than where it’s supposed to be. It’s simple. Keep your floors free from junk and you’ll greatly improve your odds of staying upright.
- Watch those throw rugs and floor surfaces. Ensure that all rugs are properly secured to the floor to prevent them slipping from underfoot and avoid the use of slippery cleaning solutions on hardwood and tile floors.
- Install non-slip surfaces in the tub and/or shower. Actually, this rule applies to people of all ages, not just seniors. Water, soap/shampoo and a slick, smooth surface is a recipe for disaster, seriously. It matters not whether you use simple non-slip strips or cute little fishies and duckies, just put them in place.
- Light dark/dim places, inside and out. It really, really, really, really, helps if you can see where you’re walking…really. Replace burned out or dim bulbs throughout your home and add additional lighting if there’s any question regarding proper illumination. Oh yeah, leave some lights on during the night, especially in the bathroom.
- Consider wearing a medical alert system with fall detection. Some come GPS equipped to ensure fallen seniors are quickly located and they are relatively inexpensive, usually under $50.
A few more safety tips
- Create and use a system for your meds. There’s an app(lication) for that. If you’re comfortable using a smart phone, download a medication reminder app. It’s the next best thing to a nagging spouse. Or use a pill box, or a pocket calendar, or link taking your meds to a daily activity (wake up, teeth brushing, eating), or use your friends and family members. Also, keep an up-to-date list of your current meds, to include name, dosage, number of refills, and strength.
- If you haven’t already, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home. And change the batteries every time you alter the clocks for daylight savings time.
- Eat well and stay hydrated. MagicKitchen.com can sure help you here. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, as we age our nutritional needs change. Ensure you’re getting the RDA of all essential vitamins and minerals through eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins. As for hydration, there’s a simple test to determine if you’re properly hydrated. If you’re urine is clear, you’re good, if it’s eye-blinding neon yellow, you’re dehydrated and need some liquid.
Getting old doesn’t necessarily mean you must give up your independence. However, there’s no doubt that our bodies change as we age and some accommodations must be made due to this fact…so don’t be a “stubborn old codger,” as my mom likes to call my dad, and make them!