When planning to home-care for seniors, consider first and foremost the safety of their surroundings. Accidents and injuries may happen anytime especially for the unprepared. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 3 older adults (aged 65 or older) fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of death, resulting from fatal and non-fatal injuries.¹ Many people who fall, even if not injured, develop fear of falling.² This fear leads to limitation of their activities and hence reduced mobility. Later this results to loss of muscle strength, which in turn increases their actual risk of falling.³
My Papa who was then 88 years old has had several falls in the previous house--once in the garage, once in the kitchen and twice in the bathroom. My siblings decided to build a smaller house just across the street for our old folks. During its construction I had the liberty to suggest what to include and what to consider in designing the house. I had no experience in taking care of seniors at that time. I knew nothing about senior-friendly homes. But nevertheless I tried my best to help in coming up with a safe dwelling place for our parents.
When it was finished I thought it was already a senior-friendly place. It had wide doors for the wheel chair, a ramp in the entryway and rooms were easily accessible. But my dad still had several falls, once in the garage and twice in the bathroom. The 2nd fall in the bathroom resulted to 7 stitches in his scalp. Although he did not have fractures, he gave up moving around the house. He didn’t like using his walker, he refused to stand up. He stayed in bed the whole day. Thereafter he had to be carried to the bathroom and to the dining room. He was practically bedridden.
Whether you are yet to build a house or you already have an existing one it is wise to keep in mind that your house will eventually be where you’ll stay when you grow old. It is where you’ll be home-cared by your children or where you’ll be home-caring your old folks. Since aging is inevitable it just makes sense that you consider making your house senior-friendly right from the start. Don’t wait for an accident to happen in your house.
I realized further home modification was necessary to prevent more accidents. And so my parents’ bedroom, the bathroom, the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen were made senior-friendly. When it was my Mama’s turn to be home cared, the house was already senior-friendly. She’s now 97 years old and with dementia. She uses a walker at home and a wheel chair for leisure trips.
A senior-friendly home promotes independence and convenience. It does not restrict mobility. There’s ease of access to all areas of the house. All of these must be in a safe environment to reduce or eliminate risk of injury.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS)
2. Bell AJ, e al. Characteristics and outcomes of elder patients presenting to the emergency department after a fall: a retrospective analysis. Medical Journal of Australia 2000, 173(4):176-7
3. Vellas BJ, et al. Fear of Falling and restriction of mobility in elderly fallers. Age and Ageing 1997;76:189-193