Illness, disability or old age can make it harder to manage daily tasks and stay safe at home. Routine jobs, like keeping the place clean and tidy can take much longer than they used, or become too difficult to complete. Often the change is gradual, but over time there can be a loss of control which may render you vulnerable. For example, there may be trip hazards and accidental poor kitchen hygiene, increasing the risk of further injury or illness. If poor memory is an issue, there is the added risk of leaving on electrical appliances or gas hobs. Take great care, inside and out, to reduce the chance of a fall to a minimum. Falls carry high risks of head or hip injury and in turn those can be dangerous and debilitating.
While this is potentially distressing and dangerous, there are some easy ways to stay on top of things. Here are a few examples.
Furniture, carpets and rugs
Make sure furniture is comfortable and easy to use. For chairs, make sure you can get in and out of them safely. Consider using extra cushions or having a walking stick to hand to provide extra stability. Position your furniture so it is easy to access and does not block where you normally walk. Consider fitting extra handles near important parts of the room or where you may need to stop and get things – by the front door as you check for keys, for example. Make sure that rugs are not placed where they create a trip hazard; check that carpets are not frayed in the places where traffic is heaviest, like on stairs and in doorways. If they are, some strong tape can be a short-term solution.
In the kitchen
Make an extra special effort to keep the kitchen tidy and leave yourself notes with reminders of important odd jobs or appointments. Make use of fridge magnets, if you have them, to put these notes in a very visible place – on the outside of the fridge. Be very deliberate about following the basic rules of kitchen safety: keep knifes stored safely, keep the handles of pans on the hob pointing to the side (use the back rings if possible) and don’t leave cooking unattended. Avoid over- filling cups with hot liquids and if you need to carry drinks from room to room, use a tray if that is practicable. Prepare food according to instructions and don’t mix chopping boards when preparing raw and cooked food. Make sure you have enough light. On a dull day and at dusk, turn on lights so you can see what you are doing. Turn them off again when you’ve finished.
In the bathroom
Just as elsewhere in the home, make sure you can access everything you need without overbalancing. Fit an extra handrail or handle to make it easier to get in and out of the bath or shower, and consider putting one near the toilet too. Many suitable handles are designed to be easily attached with strong suction cups, so no drilling is required. In the bath use a non-slip bath mat, and avoid rushing. So far as possible, reduce the amount of water splashed about and, even in a small bathroom, you can put down a second bathmat to soak up water if that would be useful.
On the stairs
Not all handrails are easy to grasp, so it can be useful to change the rail or add additional handles at intervals up the stairs. Check that carpets are not so worn that they present a trip hazard. Unless there is strong daylight, switch lights on as you go up and down stairs – you can turn them off when you have got to the top or bottom.
In the bedroom
Like furniture elsewhere, make sure that it is easy to get in and out of bed. Consider raising the bed or mattress to do this and consider installing rails if you are unsteady on your feet. Make sure you can move around the room easily. Get rid of clutter and always put the light on at night if you need to move around.
If you have a garden or outside area, keep this safe too. At night make sure it is lit if you go outside (or for when you come home). Pay special attention to removing trip hazards and get help to sort out loose paving or slippery paths. An extra rail can be very useful, at any place outside where extra support would be useful.
NHC carers have experience of delivering care in many different situations. As part of our assessment and care plan, we can advise on simple practical ways to make your home safer. You may also be able to access local authority support to pay for adapting you home to make it safer.