My mother’s safety became a concern to me as she aged. My mom lived alone and hated to ask for help. We both wanted to keep her safe and independent.
Thinking about the problem, I remembered what a very wise pediatrician told me years ago: that babyproofing the home was not something to be undertaken as a once-and-for-all task; rather, making the home safe for my baby should be an ongoing process to be revisited regularly to adapt to changing needs. Now I know that is good advice at any age.
My husband and I added sturdy grab bars bolted into studs in the shower walls and grip tape on the bath rugs to keep them from slipping. Sometimes the latex backing got funky after a few washes, so we wanted to keep an eye on that. I used the tape again in the kitchen for the mat in front of the sink.
Mom was fiercely independent and hated to ask for help, so I did borrow the ladder one day and “forgot” to return it. We adjusted the pneumatic door closer, so that her door wouldn’t snap shut as quickly, and put safety strips on the front steps too. I added stick-on clips to the baseboards and secured cords out of the way, just as I did when I had toddlers (easier to vacuum, too!).
These days there are lots of tips on the Internet about how to make a house or apartment hazard-free. I recently came upon an AARP checklist for keeping a home safe at any age.
Another tip: Has your fire safety equipment been tested? Should it be replaced? Having a smoke detector and fire extinguisher is not enough—do you know how to put out a fire? Here is a simple way to remember: PASS. I printed this out and put it on the wall next to my fire extinguisher in the kitchen. I hope I never have to use it, but I will be glad to have the reminder if I do.
Start right now. Give your home a health checkup once a year to be proactive about home safety at any age!
Pepper Evans works as an independent-living consultant, helping older adults age in place. She is the empty-nest mother of two adult daughters and has extensive personal and professional experience as a caregiver. She has worked as a researcher and editor for authors and filmmakers. She also puts her time and resources to use in the nonprofit sector and serves on the Board of Education in Lawrence Township, NJ.