Thursday, April 14, 2011

Warning: Your Aging Parents' Home May Be Hazardous to Their Health

We Boomers remember the childproofing years. Our kitchen sported cupboards that toddlers couldn't pry open (sometimes we couldn't, either) and gates kept little ones from tumbling down the stairs.

Your aging parent may need the same level of vigilance. Falling at age 80-plus is almost a recipe for a broken hip. And hazards that we Boomers can skirt around are deadly for them.

So snoop around. I give you permission to peruse your parent's house for anything that may present a safety issue. Better yet, take your parent along. Specifically, look in these rooms:

Tour the kitchen. Open the refrigerator door. Does it contain ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, green olives and little else? Not a good sign. The other extreme is also bad: it's crammed full of odds and ends, many with "interesting" aromas and colors, mostly green.

Check out the living room. Are the carpets secure? And what about those piles of "Saturday Evening Post" and "Life" magazines on the floor? Are there extension cords lying about, ready to be tripped on? What about easy chairs--do they fit well?

Walk through the bathroom. Look around: if your parent has a bathtub, is there a bath bench or seat? What about grab bars? If he or she uses a toilet riser, is it secured well? On the door of the medicine cabinet, is there a list of the medications, along with the doctor's name and phone number? This helps emergency technicians tremendously.

Stroll through other rooms. Does the laundry room look like the "Wreck of the Hesperus?" Or maybe the bedroom has become the laundry room, with clean and dirty clothes strewn around. Another room to check is wherever your parent keeps his or her medications. Do the medi-sets look exactly the same as they did a month ago?

This obviously isn't a complete list, nor is it meant to be. You'll see other things, too. As you make your tour, you'll notice some "themes" running through the home. Does your parent need help with shopping? Cooking? Preparing food? Housecleaning? Laundry? Medication management?

Our elders are notoriously poor reporters. They may say, "I'm great!" when their homes say otherwise. Once you do your tour, discuss your findings and chart a plan.

Tell me about your "tour of dreams." Did you find some surprises? We usually do.

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