1) Make Simple Repairs
If you're handy with tools, offer up your services as a free handyman. Older homes need more care. Many seniors will delay having even the simplest things fixed because of money concerns. A clogged sink, running toilet, or broken light switch can be fixed within minutes and help to ensure your family member's safety.
While you're there, do a quick review of the house. Are there any cracks in the wall that need spackle? Maybe the tiles around the toilet are cracking and mildewing? Offer to fix them yourself or have someone come in for you.
2) Check for Trip Hazards
At least 1/3 of falls in the home are caused by environmental hazards, like loose carpet, stray cords, or stacks of books or magazines. These falls can be life-threatening but very much preventable with a little work. Take a moment to walk through the home and pick up anything that could be a trip hazard.
Keep in mind during your walkthrough that many elderly people can not pick up their feet as high as you and I, so it's important to keep an eye out for cracks in cement or unexpected rises in carpeting that could catch their toes. Cracks or small steps should be marked with a strip of paint and loose carpeting repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
3) Check the safety equipment around the house
Since most senior citizens can't move as fast anymore, it's even more imperative that their early-warning safety devices – like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors - are working at peek performance.
To ensure this, do the following maintenance every 6 months:
- Change the batteries
- Use canned air or a vacuum to clear any cobwebs or dust
- Run a test to ensure that the alarm works and that your relative can still hear it
Also, you'll want to check that fire extinguishers are charged, in working order, and placed in areas where they can be easily reached.
If falls in the bathroom are a concern for your relative or friend, look into installing grab bars in key areas such as in the bathtub or around the toilet. These are inexpensive, easy to install, and have prevented many, many falls.
4) Help Secure the Outside of Their House
It's not just the inside of their home that you should be worried about, but also the outside. Many times, seniors are targeted by thieves because of their trusting-nature and how easily they can be overpowered.
Some of the things you can do to secure their home include:
- Install dead bolts on all exterior doors
- Install a peephole in the front door at a height where they can easily use it without straining
- Make sure the locks on their windows work and install secondary locks to ensure they can not be forced open.
- Remove their name from the mailbox.
5) Review Their Medication
Most senior citizens are taking a wide array of medication, some of which could interact or have strange side effects. Take time once a year to sit down and review your relative's medication and vitamin supplements with them. Make a list of their medication, showing how much should be taken and when. Talk about any side effects they might be having and how they could be related to their medication. Offer to draw up a medication schedule or discuss ways to organize their medication to make things easier.
6) Check in on them often
Even though their home is safe, it's still important to check in on elderly relatives and friends often. Give them a call once a day and see how they are, or better yet, make it a point to stop by and visit with them. Even a quick five minute visit could not only ensure they're safe but brighten up their day greatly!