Q. I'm concerned that my mom's home might not be safe for her now that she is 90. She refuses to move and I honor that wish, but are there steps I could take to make her home safer for her? — Bill, La Cañada Dear Bill,
There are ways to make her home less of a fall risk for her. Moving to assisted living sometimes increases a person's fall risk due to being in unfamiliar surroundings.
Go through her house looking for and correcting safety hazards such as cords going across pathways, throw rugs, and clutter in places where it obstructs pathways.
Since vision tends to decline as we age, encourage her to open her shades and blinds all the way to let in as much daylight as possible (unless her eyes are sensitive to the light). Despite the energy crisis, put a high-wattage bulb (or a three-way bulb if possible) in the lamp next to where she spends most of her time. Put night lights in the bathroom and in hallways leading from the bedroom to the bathroom.
Put self-stick carpet mesh or double-sided carpet tape under large area rugs to prevent the rug from sliding or your mother from catching her foot on the edge and tripping.
Install a handrail on both sides of any stairs in or outside the house.
Since most falls happen in the bathroom, pay special attention to making her bathroom safer. Place a shower seat in the shower. Mount grab bars next to the toilet and bathtub and in the shower. Place a rubber suction bath mat or anti-slip floor strips or decals in the tub or shower. A hand-held shower will simplify bathing.
A handyman can make these modifications, and it is worth the investment to make her home more comfortable for her.
To improve her balance, she can take a class at the YMCA specifically designed to improve seniors' balance (and open to the community). For more information about the class, contact Ana Marie Schaefer at (818) 790-0123, ext. 231.
As long as she is happy in her home, isn't showing signs of dementia, and her needs are being met regarding meals and hygiene, she will do best staying there. Next week I will discuss more ways to improve her safety.