Is your home healthy? It’s a question seniors need to ask themselves in order to “age in place” safely.
Aging in place means that you can safely remain living in your home of choice for as long as you are able while maintaining your dignity and quality of life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says a healthy home — one that is designed, built, renovated and maintained to support your health — helps to prevent diseases and injuries that result from hazards and deficiencies, and can allow older adults to continue to live in their homes.
Claire Sigal, a Sharp Home Health senior specialist, says that most Americans over the age of 65 would like to live in their homes for as long as possible. She and other home health professionals help seniors look at the overall condition of their home and find solutions to any safety concerns.
According to the CDC, many of these concerns will likely be found in the bathroom, the most dangerous room in your home, especially for older adults. Close to 80 percent of all bathroom accidents involve a fall, which can cause serious injuries, such as fractures or head injuries, and lead to hospitalizations.
“When it comes to home safety, it’s easier to change the environment than the person and their habits,” Sigal says. “For example, if Grandma gets up several times a night to use the bathroom, let’s make sure it’s safe for her.”
Sigal and her colleagues will review the following details to make sure your bathroom is safe for you and your loved ones:
- Has the water heater been set at 120 degrees or lower to avoid scalding?
- Do faucets feature easy-to-use lever handles?
- Are grab bars installed near the toilet and in the bathtub and shower?
- Are frequently used items within reach?
- Are there enough lights, are they bright enough and is at least one light left on at night?
- Are electrical appliances unplugged when not in use, and used away from sinks and tubs?
- Does the shower feature a hand-held showerhead?
- Can you easily get in and out of the shower and tub?
- Is there a non-slip mat on the tub and shower floors?
- Is there a bath or shower seat?
- Are area rugs secured to the floor or backed with a non-slip surface?
Once the assessment is complete, a home health professional will offer recommendations for bathroom improvements. They will take into account your individual needs, abilities, mobility and whether others are sharing the bathroom with you.
“Our goal is to work with you to honor your wishes while we help ensure that you can safely stay in your home and maintain your quality of life as you age,” Sigal says. “We know that more than one-third of injuries among older adults occur in the bathroom, and we can help modify that risk and allow you to comfortably age in place.”
This article is the second in a series on helping seniors age in place. Additional articles focus on senior safety in the kitchen and feature one family's story about successfully helping their loved one age in place.
For the news media: To talk with Claire Sigal about aging in place for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.