How to Senior Proof Your Home for the Holidays
Protect older loved ones and guests from falls, choking and other mishaps
Is Grandma coming to town this Christmas? Will your aging mom or dad help ring in the New Year? Prevent falls — a common cause of injury and death among seniors — and other age-related mishaps while decorating and prepping your house.
- Contain loose cords. While stringing lights, make sure you don’t leave electrical cords where they can be tripped over. Tape them down so they don’t accidentally snake their way into the area where people will be walking.
- Give floor coverings the (non) slip. If you have throw rugs in your home, use double-sided tape or carpet mesh to keep them in place. You may even want to consider taking them up temporarily: According to a study in the Journal of Violence and Injury Research, rugs that are loose or have curled edges may be the most common environmental hazard for elderly people.
- Keep clutter under control. Stack gifts well under the tree to keep them out of the way (designate a table or other surface for any overflow). Make sure after your kids open presents they don’t leave their new playthings scattered around.
- Corral your furballs. Pets are a potential tripping hazard, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Confine Fido or Fluffy to areas where they won't be underfoot.
- Make stairs safe. If yours have bare treads, think about installing non-slip rubber stair treads. Mark small changes in floor elevation with fluorescent tape.
- Pass on potential choking hazards. According to the National Safety Council, people age 65 and older are at an increased risk of choking. If you know a loved one wears dentures or has trouble swallowing, don’t put out bowls of hard candy, popcorn, nuts and other small snacks. Remove bones from chicken and fish and don't serve tough-to-chew cuts of meat. Make sure your senior guests have easy access to water.
- Do your special-diet homework. Be aware of health conditions that limit what an older person can eat. Try to serve foods in keeping with their dietary restrictions. For example, if you know high blood pressure is an issue, leave out salt when cooking (and put a salt shaker on the table for others who want to season their food).
- Reach for a few grab bars. If haven't already, install a grab bar beside each toilet in your home. If older folks will be staying overnight, you’ll want grab bars for the tub as well.
- Light the way. Don’t expect elderly visitors to walk around in rooms lit only by candles or tree lights. Sacrifice atmosphere for safety and turn on overhead lights and lamps: The ability to see in the dark declines with age. What’s more, if your family member happens to have dementia, low lighting can cause agitation and restlessness. Similarly, install night lights in the guest bedroom and bathroom.
- Prevent wandering. Keep a visitor with Alzheimer's or other type of dementia from going outside and getting lost by locking all windows and doors to the outside of your home.
Related: Safety Tips for Senior Drivers