Senior Safety

Seniors often have special needs and concerns to cope with, particularly those who desire to age in place. Whether an aging loved one lives with your family or in their own home, it’s important to have certain safety features in place to protect them physically and financially. Here is a short guide to essential senior safety products and services to give the entire family greater peace of mind.

Medical Alert Systems

These potentially life saving tools are as easy to activate as pressing a button, making a vocal request and there are even medical alert systems that can automatically detect when a user has fallen if they are wearing a connected device. Often called personal emergency response systems, they typically feature panic buttons on walls, wearable devices, and home speaker connectivity that allows users to communicate with dispatchers.

Medical alert systems typically are connected to a 24/7 monitoring company that provides immediate responses when emergency or medical personnel are required. They are ideal for seniors who have mobility issues, are becoming more frail, suffer from a chronic health condition and those who are alone home frequently.

Home Security Systems

Seniors choosing to remain in their own home can easily become targets for thieves and other miscreants. Home security systems for seniors can help derail any efforts concerning home invasions and they can enjoy a greater sense of safety along with 24/7 monitoring contracts. Of particular value are home security systems that also offer options such as medical alert devices in conjunction with a contract.

It’s important to find a security package compatible with one’s need or preference for landline or cellular connections or both. It will also be necessary to decide how technologically advance you want the system to be and how easy it will be to operate. Individuals looking for state-of-the-art security will want to include options such as video camera, motion detectors, intrusion alerts and perhaps even consider incorporating some home automation features into the system.

Identity Theft Protection

The elderly are a primary target for identity thieves and scammers for a number of reasons. For starters, many seniors aren’t as tech savvy as younger generations, making them vulnerable to online predators in particular. However, seniors also tend to be more trusting which also makes them more likely to fall for door-to-door and phone scams such as credit card fraud, robotic voice recording callers, prize schemes, health care scams, charity scams and other scenarios. It is amazing how little personal information it takes to open credit accounts, obtain payday loans, and commit other acts of fraud.

Fortunately, there are a number of reputable identity theft protection companies that can help seniors and their families enjoy greater peace of mind concerning ID compromises. Identity theft protection services can keep tabs on everything from financial accounts and credit scores to social media hacks and even the dark web—all for a small monthly monitoring fee. This helps stop ID invasions and helps victims take fast action to reduce any damage done. In fact, most of these companies offer guaranteed protection and are backed with insurance coverage is slip-ups occur.

Walk-In Tubs and Showers

The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the home, and seniors can minimize the risks of falling by investing in a walk-in tub or shower setup. Walk-in tubs differ from traditional ones in that they feature a large safety door that allows one to step into the tub without lifting their legs very high, which reduces falling risks. They are typically equipped with a molded seating bench and hand rails inside the unit, and some models feature adjustable bubble jets. Curb-less showers are essentially set very low to the ground and are ideal for those who use wheelchairs or scooters for mobility and those who prefer showering over baths. Walk-in tubs can be somewhat pricey, while curb-less showers are generally more affordable.

Shower Chairs or Transfer Benches

Remaining balanced in the shower is essential, which is what makes shower or transfer benches an essential component for senior safety in the home. Shower benches allow one to sit comfortably while bathing, and they are designed for ease of use and stability. Many come with height adjustment features and foldable armrests or those that can be adjusted via suction cups to accommodate multiple users. It’s important to keep a few factors in mind when considering transfer benches for showers. Weight capacity for standard chairs often caps out at 250 pounds. Also, it’s essential to buy a chair or bench with measurements that will fit within the shower area.

High Seated Commodes

Also known as ‘Comfort Height’ toilets, these commodes are typically three to five inches higher than standard models. These can be installed as a DIY project or one can call a plumbing professional. However, raising the toilet height can be as simple as investing in a thicker toilet seat. Either method used, elevating the commodes’s height will make it easier for seniors to get on and off the seat safely.

Safety Grab Bars

Grab bars within the bathroom and the presence of strategically placed safety rails throughout the home can make a huge difference in the safety and comfort of a senior choosing to age in place. Grab bars around the toilet area provide additional leverage and can assist in getting up and down from the seat and they can be invaluable for those with mobility concerns. There are two main categories of such bars: those that attach to the toilet via a free standing frame and individual bars attached to walls surrounding the toilet.

Within the shower or tub stall, it’s recommended to have one long horizontal grab bar along the longest wall and vertical grab bars installed on other walls for rectangular shower/tub combinations. However, for cubicle or custom designed walk in showers, horizontal bars should be placed on all sides of the surround for maximum security. Regardless of design, do install a vertical handle near the shower head, and even consider horizontal grab bars for extra safety in case a fall occurs, as this can help them get back on their feet much easier.

Safety Handrails in the Home

Seniors desiring to remain in their home safely as long as possible will want to consider installing handrails in certain potential ‘danger zones’ throughout the home. For starters, ease entering homes with stairs leading to access doors by installing a hand rail along both sides of the stairwell. Of course, installing handrails along both side walls of indoor stairs as well is highly recommended. Long hallways are another place to consider installing handrails to prevent wall damage and falls while traversing the home.

Stair Lift Devices for the Home

A leading reason why many aging individuals feel pressured to leave their home and downsize to a flat or even a senior living facility is due to issues navigating a multi-storied home. This can be a particular concern of those who rely on the use of wheelchairs. However, stair lifts offer a reliable solution and greater comfort for seniors with mobility issues. These devices simply require one to push a button to be elevated to the next floor level, and there are options for wheelchair accessibility or those with a built-in seat. What are known as stair climbers are the top choice for wheelchair use, and most models of stair lift devices can work with curved, angled or straight stairs. These devices can also be purchased for outdoor use to improve access to the home itself.

Adjustable Beds and Bed Railings

While they still function similarly to the models you see in hospital and clinical settings, adjustable beds have come a long way and are now common in home bedrooms. They are particular popular with seniors because adjustable beds allow various areas of the unit to be raised and lowered to suit comfort. The ability to elevate the head, knees and feet can provide relief for a number of common ailments including:

  • Alleviating back and body pains
  • Improving digestion
  • Reducing acid reflux and heartburn
  • Alleviating snoring, and sleep apnea
  • Enhancing circulation
  • Easing swelling
  • Relieving symptoms of arthritis and other degenerative conditions

Additionally, adjustable beds and frames are ideal for those with mobility issues, as these beds can make it easier to get in and out of bed safely, especially with the incorporation of hand rails. Again, these are similar to bed rails attached to hospital beds and come in an array of lengths and sizes. Most will retract or fold down to give one more space when rails aren’t needed.

Hearing Aids

The dangers of not being able to hear can be life-threatening. For example, a senior with severe hearing loss may not be able to hear smoke detectors or alarms for fire or burglary going off, leaving them vulnerable to numerous risks. Hearing aids can help resolve hearing loss to some extent. Furthermore, seniors with hearing loss can suffer from withdrawal and depression due to embarrassment and discomfort caused by the lack of being able to hear and communicate with others. An added benefit of hearing aids is that seniors with hearing problems that go ignored have greater chances of developing dementia and at a much faster rate than adults with adequate hearing.

Mobility Devices for Seniors

Mobility devices range from walking canes and walkers to sophisticated wheelchairs and electric scooters. Walkers and canes are ideal for those who are recovering from an injury or simply need a bit of additional stability when moving around to prevent falls. These implements also help alleviate pressure on the hips and knees, making them exceptional mobility devices for arthritis or degenerative joint disease sufferers. The top option for seniors needing walkers are three-wheeled walkers known as rollators. These easily fold in half and typically are equipped with a basket and a hand brake for convenience. Four wheeled walkers have similar features but also have a built-in seat.

Electric scooters and wheelchairs can meet of the seniors who have limited upper body strength that is required to use walkers, canes or traditional wheelchairs and are a necessity for those who cannot walk. The primary difference between scooters and electric wheelchairs involve maneuverability. Wheelchairs often are easy to move about in amid the home due to their smaller size and turning radius requirements. However, those with serious mobility issues, having both an electric wheelchair for use at home and a scooter for outings or moving around outside may be recommended. Most insurance policies will cover a certain amount of the cost for these devices when prescribed by a physician.

Wheelchair Accessible Ramps

Ramps leading to home entryways is a good idea regardless of the resident’s age, as an injury can happen at anytime to anyone and ensuring access is just smart planning. Furthermore, wheelchair ramps are a valuable asset for wheelchair and scooter users who want to enjoy more freedom and independence in their lives. As an additional consideration, ramps serve an invaluable function during medical emergencies when personnel need to enter and exit the home quickly with rescue and transport equipment.

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Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt