How To Make Your Aging Parent’s Home A Safe Haven

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Life expectancy in the United States has gradually been increasing over the past several decades. Studies have shown that a child born in 1960 was expected to live an average of 70 years. A child born in 2010 is now expected to live an average of 78 years. We’re living longer now than ever, and so are our parents. One of the challenges that the increase in lifespan presents is making sure that our parents are able to live happily and safely in their own homes, as long as possible. Addressing the dangers that pose the greatest risks to the elderly in their homes and working to eliminate as many of them as possible can help provide peace-of-mind for yourself and your parents.

1. Preventing Falls
The number one accident that occurs to the elderly in the home is falls. As we age, our risk of falling increases, due to a natural decrease in strength and flexibility. The loss of bone mass as we age also makes us more susceptible to serious injuries as a result of falling. However, a large number of these accidents are preventable by decreasing the number of environmental hazards found in the home. Doing things like removing throw rugs from floors that could be trip hazards and installing hand rails next to toilets and in the shower can reduce the chance of falls occurring. Encouraging your parents to engage in some mild exercise can improve their strength and dexterity which will reduce their risk of falling and becoming injured.

2. Managing Medications 
Nearly 80% of individuals age 75 or older are on at least one form of prescription medication. As we age the side effects of some medications can become increasingly harmful. Take time to familiarize yourself with the medications that your parents’ physician has prescribed for your parents and research what possible side effects could accompany their use. Discuss with your parents the importance of taking their medications as they have been prescribed. If you feel that they are struggling to manage their medications, it may be helpful to purchase a device that dispenses their medications at the proper time and sounds an alarm if the medication is not taken within a certain amount of time.

3. Securing The Home
Increasingly, elderly people are the target of home invasions because criminals see them as low-risk opportunities to steal prescriptions and other items of value. Installing an alarm system that alerts authorities when it is triggered could prove to be a deterrent to would-be home invaders. By also equipping outdoor lighting with motion activated switches that illuminate the outside of the home when someone trips the proximity sensor, you could save your parents the trauma of being the victim of a home invasion.

4. Neighborhood Watch

Often, the greatest resource available to help you watch out for the health and welfare of your parents are your parents’ own neighbors. They can serve as additional watchful eyes at times when you have to be away. Make an effort to get to know your parents’ neighbors, exchange phone numbers with them and ask them to let you know if they see any activity, or lack thereof, that is unusual. Your parents’ neighbors can serve as an early warning system to many potential problems.

The prospect of becoming your parents’ caretaker can be overwhelming for some. Doing what you can to reduce the risks that your aging parents face on a daily basis can add to the years that they are able to live independently and improve their quality of life.

John Rogers writes about aging, finance & is a contributing author at termlifeinsurance.org.
Photo by RoaroftheFour via Flickr.
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