Keeping Seniors Safe in Their Own Homes: Kitchen, Living Room, & Bedroom

by VickyRN 4,075 Views | 4 Comments Senior Moderator

Keeping the elderly safe in their homes is a public health priority and also supports the philosophy of aging in place. It’s important for the home health nurse to know what to look for in conducting a walk-through inspection of an elderly client’s home. This article concentrates on the kitchen, living room, and bedroom, and offers useful advice in keeping these potentially hazardous areas safe.

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    Keeping Seniors Safe in Their Own Homes: Kitchen, Living Room, & Bedroom

    ‘Elderizing’ a home means making the necessary modifications to safeguard the elderly occupants, particularly in reducing risk for falls. Extensive renovations may be required to accommodate physical changes or medical conditions (such as hearing loss, osteoporosis, or arthritis) often associated with age. Doorways may need to be widened for wheelchairs, bathtub walls may need to be lowered, and grab bars may need to be installed. Keeping seniors safe at home reinforces the philosophy of aging in place. Aging in place is a movement that supports the elderly in living safely and independently in their own homes for as long as possible.

    It’s important for the home health nurse to know what to look for in conducting a walk-through inspection of an elderly client’s home. This article concentrates on the kitchen, living room, and bedroom, and offers useful advice for keeping these potentially hazardous areas safe.

    Kitchen - Items such as utensils and cooking supplies should be kept within easy reach. Instruct the elder to use a sturdy step stool when reaching for something from a high shelf. Make sure appliance cords are placed out of the way. Damage and frayed cords need to be replaced. Towels or dish cloths should not be placed on the stove, to avoid fire risk. While cooking, the older person should not leave the kitchen. The food should be supervised continuously while it is being cooked, and then the burners should be turned off. The elder should avoid using floor polish or wax as these make the kitchen floor surface very slick. Make sure a workable fire extinguisher is available and the elder knows how to use it.

    Living room – Arrange the furniture so that the elder can easily move around it. Any furniture that is not needed should be removed. Low coffee tables are a falling hazard and should either be removed or placed out of the way of traffic. Lamp, extension, and telephone cords should be placed out of the way. Remove cords from under furniture or carpeting. Furniture should not be flimsy, but sturdy, with firm cushions. Chairs and couches should have armrests so the elderly have something to hold onto while getting up. They should not be low to the floor, but set high enough to allow the older person to sit and stand easily. Caster wheels should be removed from furniture. Automatic night-lights should be used in each room.

    Bedroom – Beds should not be too low, but should be adjusted to a height that makes it easy for the elder to get in and out. A nightlight is a must. A bedside light with a switch that is easy to turn on and off (or a touch lamp) should be near the bed. A telephone should also be located within easy reach of the bed. Have at least one firm chair available, with arms, to sit and dress. Make sure working smoke alarms are on every floor and outside every bedroom.

    Keeping the elderly safe in their own homes and out of exorbitantly expensive institutional long-term care is a public-health priority. More articles in this series are to follow. Please stay tuned.

    References:

    Healthy places terminology
    How to buy furniture for elderly people
    Last edit by Joe V on Sep 10, '12
    tricare, Joe V, and TheCommuter like this.
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    VickyRN is a certified nurse educator (NLN) and certified gerontology nurse (ANCC). Her research interests include: the special health and social needs of the vulnerable older adult population; registered nurse staffing and resident outcomes in intermediate care nursing facilities; and, innovations in avoiding institutionalization of frail elderly clients by providing long-term care services and supports in the community. She is faculty in a large baccalaureate nursing program in North Carolina.

    VickyRN joined Mar '01 - from 'Under the shadow of His wings...'. VickyRN has '16' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds'. Posts: 12,043 Likes: 6,420; Learn more about VickyRN by visiting their allnursesPage


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    4 Comments so far...

  4. 3
    kitchen - automatic fire-suppression systems can be installed over the range to take care of any flames that result from forgotten cooking. if the elder needs to use a walker, it might be safer to fit the kitchen for safe wheel-chair use-- put range-top controls on the front of the burners so it's not necessary to reach over hot things (burn hazard from steam, contents spillage, or clothing alighting). faucets can be mounted to the side of the sink, rather than the back. make sure the hot water heater is set to no higher than 115 degrees f, to prevent scalds. a small "snack station" using a dorm-style fridge, a toaster oven on a ground breaker, and an easily-reached shelf for supplies can often satisfy mid-day needs without involving the full range of kitchen appliances. don't forget that grab bars aren't just for bathrooms-- a good eval will identify areas in the kitchen where additional stability might be handy. be sure that grab bars are installed bolted to studs, with caulking to prevent water getting in and rotting the wood. (jnlcp summer 2011, vol xi no. 2, p. 396 has an excellent article on grab bars. aanlcp | american assocation of nurse life care planners)

    living room
    – grab bars at entrance from front door can be helpful. light switches should be rocker switches that are easy to use without dexterity.

    bedroom
    – bedside rails can be helpful for arising and lying down, inexpensive at many equipment suppliers online. a good night light is helpful but be sure all night lights are green or amber, not blue-- blue light stimulates wakefulness (think: wake up in the morning and seeing blue sky).

    SuzieeQ, JustBeachyNurse, and VickyRN like this.
  5. 2
    All these environmental things are a great concern. But I think the biggest is just simple human contact and meaningful activities. How many of us know the elderly guy or lady that never goes out and does nothing but watch TV, cook, and sleep until one day they can not get up?

    I think checking on them routinely, even if you are just a neighbor, can go a long way.

    Also, what about the older ones that have no one to install the handgrips for the shower? Or have several hundred to have someone widen a door or install a ramp over the porch? Oh, I am sure that medicare/medicaid offers to pay a home health occupational therapist to come out and make a list like you made. But, what about actually doing it or paying to have it done? Many elderly may have the kids all grown up and living many timezones away or do not make friends who are younger to replace the ones they lose contact with.

    Now, not all elderly are like that. I am friends with a 70 year old that builds and rides his own bikes on the levee and has tons of friends in the New Orleans biking community. But, we are not talking about those guys.
    SuzieeQ and VickyRN like this.
  6. 0
    Quote from grntea
    kitchen - automatic fire-suppression systems can be installed over the range to take care of any flames that result from forgotten cooking. if the elder needs to use a walker, it might be safer to fit the kitchen for safe wheel-chair use-- put range-top controls on the front of the burners so it's not necessary to reach over hot things (burn hazard from steam, contents spillage, or clothing alighting). faucets can be mounted to the side of the sink, rather than the back. make sure the hot water heater is set to no higher than 115 degrees f, to prevent scalds. a small "snack station" using a dorm-style fridge, a toaster oven on a ground breaker, and an easily-reached shelf for supplies can often satisfy mid-day needs without involving the full range of kitchen appliances. don't forget that grab bars aren't just for bathrooms-- a good eval will identify areas in the kitchen where additional stability might be handy. be sure that grab bars are installed bolted to studs, with caulking to prevent water getting in and rotting the wood. (jnlcp summer 2011, vol xi no. 2, p. 396 has an excellent article on grab bars. aanlcp | american assocation of nurse life care planners)

    living room
    – grab bars at entrance from front door can be helpful. light switches should be rocker switches that are easy to use without dexterity.

    bedroom
    – bedside rails can be helpful for arising and lying down, inexpensive at many equipment suppliers online. a good night light is helpful but be sure all night lights are green or amber, not blue-- blue light stimulates wakefulness (think: wake up in the morning and seeing blue sky).
    excellent advice, grntea! thank you
  7. 0
    Quote from ctmed
    All these environmental things are a great concern. But I think the biggest is just simple human contact and meaningful activities. How many of us know the elderly guy or lady that never goes out and does nothing but watch TV, cook, and sleep until one day they can not get up?

    I think checking on them routinely, even if you are just a neighbor, can go a long way.

    Also, what about the older ones that have no one to install the handgrips for the shower? Or have several hundred to have someone widen a door or install a ramp over the porch? Oh, I am sure that medicare/medicaid offers to pay a home health occupational therapist to come out and make a list like you made. But, what about actually doing it or paying to have it done? Many elderly may have the kids all grown up and living many timezones away or do not make friends who are younger to replace the ones they lose contact with.

    Now, not all elderly are like that. I am friends with a 70 year old that builds and rides his own bikes on the levee and has tons of friends in the New Orleans biking community. But, we are not talking about those guys.
    All good questions and concerns which we must grapple with in a society that is rapidly aging. Creative and innovative solutions that enable older people to safely stay in their own homes are in great demand, and are win-win for both society and for the older adult. I often challenge my students to become nursing entrepreneurs and think of creative inventions to keep the elderly in their own homes and out of institutional long-term care. The Life Alert, for instance, is one innovation that is relatively inexpensive, that has allowed millions to remain in their homes in relative safety and independence. And, of course, just being a concerned neighbor and checking in on a dependent older adult who otherwise has no support system is something we all should be doing. Taking the time to help the elder with transporation issues, fixing up the house or yard, or just offering some neighborly companionship can go a long way. If we all did this, what a better and safer society we would have.


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