Are your parents safe in their own home?
We all know how important it is to lock our doors and check our smoke alarms. But did you know falling is the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries in the over-65 age group? That’s right; according to the National Council on Aging, over one-third of senior citizens fall each year, and falling is the most common reason for an emergency room visit among the elderly. While you can’t prevent a stumble or dizziness, you can safety proof the most dangerous room in the house: the bathroom.
If your parents still live independently, it’s of vital importance to install handrails in the bathrooms they use. Their lives may depend on it. With that thought in mind, don’t slap up a bar in the bathtub and consider it safe, because it’s a little more involved than that. In fact, tubs should have two handrails – one that can be reached from a sitting position and another for when they’re standing. And it’s a good idea to have a third handrail or grip outside the tub that they can use while getting in and out.
Next, safeguard the commode area. A handrail next to the commode will help your elderly parents stand if they feel weak, dizzy or faint, and all three of these symptoms can come on without warning if a person becomes sick or has a reaction to a medication. If possible, put a rail on each side of the commode to protect against falls to either side.
Once the most dangerous room is covered, take a tour around the house and look for other potential areas where a fall might be prevented by a handrail. If there are stairs, a handrail should extend past the bottom step a few inches so it’s easily reached. Original handrails might not be strong enough, so pull them with all your weight and make sure they’re sturdy and well secured. If your parents still drive, consider putting a handrail in the garage close to where they park the car.
Think outside the box: if your parents visit you or someone else on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to offer to install safety handrails in that bathroom, too. It’s better to err on the side of caution than to have to rush to the emergency room with an injured senior.
Remember, a fall to an elderly person can mean much more than an injury. A broken hip or shoulder can mean months of recuperation and rehab, and it may mean the end of their independence. If your senior parent is already prone to falling, it might be time to talk to them about moving to a safer place, such as an assisted living facility.
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