April 24, 2009
Home Safety Tips for Older Adults
By Joe Valentino, OTR/L, MBA, Director of Inpatient Therapy
Walton Rehabilitation Health System
Augusta, GA—By the year 2030, one out of every five Americans will be 65 and older.
As our population continues to age, and longevity increases, it will become even more important for older adults to learn more ways to continue to live safely at home, whether alone or with the help of a caregiver.
That’s where occupational therapy can help. Occupational therapists focus on helping people engage in “occupations” that make life more meaningful. This includes basic life activities such as dressing and bathing, and more complex life activities such as caring for your home, cooking and gardening.
In recognition of April as Occupational Therapy Month, Walton Rehabilitation Health System in Augusta, Ga., and the American Occupational Therapy Association offers the following tips to help older adults, and their caregivers, live more successfully, and comfortably, at home.
For Older Adults
- If you have arthritis, wrap foam, cloth, or tape around the handles of objects such as knives and cooking pots and pans to cushion the grip. Household and gardening tools with larger, ergonomically designed handles are now available for sale in many retail outlets.
- As more older adults become computer savvy, help prevent back and neck strain by encouraging proper posture of the head, forearms, back, and feet. The head should be level with the monitor and the top of the screen at eye level. Forearms should be parallel to the keyboard and held only slightly above it. Place a small pillow or rolled up towel between the back of the chair and the lower back to provide back support. Feet should rest flat on the floor or on a footstep.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects. Instead, use carts or carriers with wheels for grocery bags, garbage cans or gardening soil.
- Replace round doorknobs and faucet handles with lever-style handles.
- Arrange furniture so that there is plenty of room to walk freely, and remove throw rugs (or secure them firmly to the floor).
- Be sure there is adequate lighting throughout the house. When replacing hard-to-reach light bulbs, upgrade the wattage for improved visibility to help prevent falls.
- In the bathroom, install grab bars and add nonslip strips or a rubber mat on the floor of the tub or shower. Consider replacing the toilet with a higher model.
- When getting out of bed at night, use a nightlight.
- Make sure telephones are placed so they are easily accessible.
- Stay active to maintain overall strength and endurance.
- Pace yourself. Separate daily tasks, including leisure activities, into manageable amounts, and take breaks when necessary.
- Recognize that your needs must be met in addition to the needs of the older adult.
- Engage in coping activities that promote your well-being, such as exercise, spending time with friends, or other hobbies.
- Ask others for help, and develop a schedule that distributes caregiving responsibilities among family members or home health aides, or consider adult day care.
- Accept that feelings of stress, anger, frustration and sadness are not uncommon.
- Join a therapy or discussion group for caregivers of older adults.
Caregivers and older adults can also investigate resources such as lawn care, house cleaning or meals-on-wheels, whether through a professional service or through help from family members, which help older adults maintain their independence while living at home.
Occupational therapists, such as those at Walton Rehabilitation Health System, can also provide home evaluations for patients to determine specific changes to the home environment. In addition, Walton Rehabilitation Health System offers family training and caregiver education.
As sons and daughters increasingly care for aging parents, it’s important to remember that resources are available. Local hospitals, support groups and others offer a number of programs and services to ensure that older parents, and their caregivers, can continue to enjoy a full quality of life.
Media Contact: Danielle Wong Moores, PR Specialist, 706-434-0150
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