As a seasoned home care nurse I have been asked this question many times. Over the years I have compiled a small list of the most important things to do or own in order to stay safely in your home as you age. There are many things a person can do to decrease their risk of accidents or injuries. Fall prevention is at the top of the list, medication management, help in an emergency or meal preparation can all impact your ability to age in your home safely.
The CDC says that 2.8 million people over age 65 are admitted to the hospital annually for fall related injuries, hip fractures and head injuries are the most common. There are multiple ways to make the home safer, installing grab bars, ramps if necessary, high profile toilets, putting non-slip strips in the tub or stairs. Changing out shower heads to handheld ones and adding a shower chair can help prevent falls in the bathroom. Remove throw rugs in the home and if you need an assistive device, use one. Make sure to get your eyes checked annually for changes.
Medication errors account for between 6-12% of all senior hospital admissions and the most common medication causing problems are anticoagulants or blood thinners. Consider having your medications prepackaged by one of the pharmacies. This is usually a free service that also includes delivery or medications every 2 weeks packed in cardboard folders. There is never a need to pick up refills or stand in line at the pharmacy. Changes are made directly through your doctor. This also helps eliminate duplicate prescribing as the medications are all verified before filling with the prescribing MD.
Other areas to consider for safety are security, having a medical alert system, keeping all windows and doors locked including the garage. Smoke detectors are very important in any home but especially for seniors. Research by the National Fire Incident Reporting Agency showed that people over 65 are 2.5 times more likely to die in a fire and people over age 85 are 4 times more likely. Never share personal information over the phone or computer and avoid answering unwanted phone calls. Personal care needs are a challenge for many elderly people, consider installing a bidet toilet seat. These can be purchased on Amazon and are relatively easy to install. Many people like to use security cameras to monitor elderly parents. Please be sure to respect their privacy if using this method.
There are many ways to stay in your home and be safe doing it. If you still need assistance of course exploring home health care could meet all your needs.