Autonomy is important. We all want the ability to choose how and where we will spend the later years of our lives. Many Americans are now choosing to remain at home, or “Age in Place”.
It’s an increasingly popular lifestyle choice. According to AARP, 87 percent of adults over the age of 65 want to stay in their current home and community as they age. Over 70 percent of adults between 50 and 64 years old want to age in place.
It makes sense. Homes are full of memories, and they come to embody the character of their owners. Plus, staying at home preserves connections to family, friends, and the local community.
One of the greatest health challenges of aging in place is fall prevention. For those older adults who want to remain at home, assess your current and future needs. Is your home safe? Does it need remodeling?
An Occupational Therapist is a professional that can assess home safety and recommend designs and/or devices to prevent injury and disability. The goal is to promote the resident’s health and help the person develop, retain, or improve their level of independence.
Here are some of the most important factors in preventing falls.
- Check medication side effects and interactions. Some medicines may cause dizziness or balance issues—like blood pressure pills and diuretics—which increases a person’s likelihood of falling.
- Attend regular check-ups. Balance and vision problems contribute to a majority of falls. Keep up-to-date on medications and prescriptions for eye health. A private duty nurse or home health nurse can reconcile medications and check for interactions, if needed.
- Get stable flooring and shoes. Plastic runners are often better than carpet. If you do have rugs or carpet, make sure they are tacked down and won’t slip around. Try wearing low-heeled shoes or use a rubber-tipped cane. Avoid socks, slippers, or anything that could lead to slipping and falling.
- Install hardware. The bathroom can be one of the most dangerous places, because it is one of the most slippery. Put down a non-slip mat in the shower. You may also want to consider adding grab bars in the shower and in other areas of the house. (An Occupational Therapist can be very helpful in determining the most effective areas to put up support bars, and other modifications.)
- Add adequate lighting. If you do have vision problems, it is incredibly important to make sure the house is well-lit—especially around the stairs. Another way to combat stairs or other changes in depth is to create contrast with different colors.
- Train for balance and strength. Maintaining or improving your sense of balance can decrease the risk of a fall. A Physical Therapist can help you develop a plan that is best suited to your needs.
The above tips will help you fall-proof your home. We recommend taking the next step and getting a medical fall alert system. These devices are convenient, easy-to-use, and can help you maintain your safety and independence. Here are the Top 10 Medical Alert Systems for Seniors and Life Alert Reviews [2018 Edition].
In the unfortunate case that you do suffer a fall, create a health care team to help you navigate the process more smoothly. For a limited time, you can download the Post-Hospital Discharge Guide to help you prepare for the discharge process. Private duty nurses can be especially beneficial after an unexpected hospital stay. They provide the one-on-one attention needed to help you heal at home.
Aging in place can be successful if you are prepared. Take control of your independence and quality of life with a long-term care plan and the support of local aging professionals.