We all want our parents to be strong and capable and live independently as long as possible. But time marches on, and being aware of what to look out for when visiting aging parents becomes more important.
After all, with aging comes many changes – and sometimes those changes are slow and more difficult to detect.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 600,000 older Americans are treated each year in hospital emergency rooms for injuries they get at home. These injuries are often the result of hazards that could have been easily prevented with some forethought.
Unfortunately, we are often slow to recognize our parents’ inability to consider these potential hazards themselves.
That’s why we have to be ever-mindful whenever we visit our parents to check that they are doing well cognitively and have retained basic but important safety information they need.
Here are two helpful checklists, based on information provided by Senior Solutions of America, of what to look out for when visiting aging parents – and to determine signs your aging parents may need help.
Are they safe on their own?
- Do they understand how to leave the home if necessary? Do they know where the door is located and how to exit the building?
- Will they stay home or near the house rather than wander off?
- If they go outside, do they know where they live and how to get back inside?
- Can they identify signals, such as smoke from the kitchen or fire alarms, that would alert them to potential dangers?
- Do they know how to access emergency services? Do they know how and when to dial 911?
- Would they be able to communicate over the phone? Can they physically get to a phone no matter where they are?
- Do they have frequent life-threatening medical emergencies that require immediate intervention? Do they know where any medication they might need is located? Can they reach it?
Is their home safe?
- Electrical outlets and switches: Make sure none are warm to the touch and that no wires are exposed.
- Check lightbulbs to make sure they are the appropriate size and wattage for what they are being used for.
- Electrical cords/extension cords: Make sure they are tucked away so they are not a trip hazard and that the cords are not frayed. Be sure extension cords are not overloaded with plugs.
- Are all rugs/runners slip resistant, so they would not be easily tripped up on?
- Are shelves well-secured to the wall and not overloaded with items that would make them fall?
- Can your parent hear the doorbell and phone, so they could respond if there was an emergency they were being warned of?
- Are smoke/carbon monoxide detectors working properly?
- Are space heaters (if used) being turned off after use?
- Does your parent have an emergency exit plan?
- Are towels, curtains and other flammables being kept away from the stove and other heat sources?
- Are all plug-in appliances kept far away from water sources (sinks, showers, bathtubs)?
- Is there good lighting over the stove and countertops so parents can see when they slice foods?
- If parents need a step stool to reach things, is it stable and sturdy?
- Are all rooms and hallways well-lit to reduce tripping potential? Are the light switches located near the entrance, so parents don’t have to walk in a dark room before getting light? If not, consider adding high wattage, auto-sensor night lights.
- Are bathtubs and showers equipped with non-slip mats and safety bars?
- Are all medications stored in the containers they came in and clearly labeled?
- Is there a working flashlight next to the bed in case of a power outage?
- If there are stairs, are light switches located at the top and bottom of stairs?
- Are steps secure and non-skid? Can they clearly see the edges of each step?