I am going home and visiting my parents for the holidays. They are aging. I want to make sure they are safe in their home. What can I do to make sure I am caring for my parents while they remain in their home?
Safety in the Home
As our parents age, we often take on the role of caregiver, and the management of this can happen from afar.
From a distance, we can take measures to help our parents remain safe, but the first step is to physically visit our parents to identify things that we can change.
When we consider how to make a home safe for an aging loved one who is still able to take care of themselves at home, it helps to put ourselves in their shoes and consider how they can remain safe while completing everyday activities.
Is my loved one safe when they are:
- Cooking in the kitchen?
- Cleaning the house?
- Walking through rooms?
- Heating or cooling the house?
- Sleeping at night?
- Doing laundry?
- Driving the car?
- Maintaining the lawn?
Even if they are not in the early stages of dementia, our elderly loved ones are more prone to forgetfulness, as well as injuries from trips and falls.
It can be challenging to ensure their safety.
Safety Checkup Checklist (download here!)
- Ensure handrails are installed on stairways and in the bathroom.
- Ensure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
- Ensure lighting is adequate.
- Install safety knocks and shut-off switches in the kitchen.
- Clear the home of dangerous chemicals.
- Organize and properly store medications.
- Remove locks from interior doors to prevent accidental lock-ins.
- Remove portable space heaters and other devices that can cause fires.
- Clear clutter to reduce fire hazards.
- Clear out furniture and other objects from walkways to prevent falls and trips.
Home safety goes well beyond this checklist, and it includes outdoor spaces, as well as particular danger zones.
Read more home safety tips at our three-part series here:
Many of us are guilty of feeling frozen in place when an emergency happens. Panic sets in and we seem to forget who to call and what to do.
To ensure your parent’s safety, put together a list of who to call if an emergency should occur.
Consider programming emergency numbers, as well as your phone number, into your parent’s phone.
In most areas in the United States, the emergency number to dial is 911 for situations that require police, fire, or ambulance assistance. In some areas, individual phone numbers must be dialed for each emergency department.
Post a list of local emergency phone numbers near your parent’s land-line phone, or in a place where the list will not be removed or lost.
Include contact information for someone that must be called (and this might be you) “in case of emergency.”
Talk about Finances
Finances are important to home safety.
Sit down and talk with your aging parents to ensure their finances are in order.
These are some questions that you can ask to ensure your loved one’s financial safety:
- Are you able to pay your mortgage or rent, as well as taxes?
- Are you able to pay your utilities (and keep yourself warm/cool/comfortable)?
- Are you able to purchase your medications?
- Is your savings account/retirement fund holding up to your expenses?
While visiting your parents, consider taking inventory of their financial and legal documents. Explain that this is for their financial safety.
Help your parents simplify their bills and financial tasks. Consider asking for permission to become a signer on their bank accounts and paying their bills for them. This will help you to know that the finances are in order, even when you aren’t physically present.
Planning for the Future
We can remove some surprise and stress from our lives by planning for the future. Little to no stress is what we want for our aging loved ones – it protects their mental well-being.
Talk about planning for the future with your parents during your holiday visit.
Encourage your parents to make decisions about their future based on their own desires and help them put the plan together.
Here are some questions that you can ask:
- What will you do if one, or both of you, become ill or have an accident?
- What will you do if you need to move to a nursing or memory care facility?
- What will you do with your house, or your belongings, if you move to a care facility?
- Who will represent you and be responsible for your finances and legal documents if you can no longer do so (i.e., a power of attorney)?
Visiting Care Managers
As much as we want to frequently visit our aging parents, sometimes it isn’t possible. We do have options, however, to help us “see” that our parents are well and safe.
Pull together a network of people and schedule regular visits to your parent’s home. Your parent’s visitor network can include close family members, friends, and trusted people from the community.
Ensure that you communicate with the visitors frequently. Consider keeping a checklist and openly communicate any concerns that you might have.
Consider hiring an individual geriatric care manager, also known as an aging life care professional, to visit your parents and assess safety and wellness in their home regularly.
Discuss these options with your parents to keep the element of surprise out of either of your lives.
Your parents may not feel that they need someone to check up on them – even after you tell them that your goal is their safety (and your peace of mind).
Help and Advice
If you are in the state of Texas and have questions about safety and care for your aging parents, as well as options for your loved ones to continue living independently in their own home, consider reaching out to Health and Human Services for the state of Texas at their website here.
If you have noticed a decline in your parent’s behavior, such as increased forgetfulness, and if you are in the Round Rock, Texas area, there are numerous elderly care organizations, including us, that you can reach out to for questions and assistance. Read more about these options at our blog Round Rock Elderly Care Organizations here.