While it is usually the first choice to age in place, remaining in one’s longtime home rather than relocating to a facility, there is maintenance to do routinely to ensure it’s always safe for people who are living with a chronic condition. A caregiver can help to make an annual checklist of items to update.
MAKE A LIST, CHECK IT TWICE
Whether in an apartment or a house, there are some basic safety devices that don’t last forever. Either hire someone or get out a stepladder and review the following:
Carbon monoxide detectors
Water heater temperature
A local fire department may be able to schedule a visit to help with changing batteries in these devices, or even installing new ones. The National Fire Protection Association has resources online for training and events to learn more about electrical and other safety.
Having a fire extinguisher is important, but the person who lives in the house should know where it is and be able to use it.
Radon cannot be smelled, tasted, or seen but this gas can reach unsafe levels in a home. January is Radon Action Month and the Environmental Protection Agency makes information about testing available online.
Many of these devices simply require fresh batteries and will be useless without new ones.
CLEAN UP THE CLUTTER
De-cluttering can be a wonderful New Year’s resolution as you remove tripping hazards and any other potential issues or obstacles harmful to one's health from each room—and closet or other storage space—of the home.
There can be many reasons that people cling to an excessive amount of stuff—sentimental attachments, hoarding, inability to physically lift and clean due to age or illness, and more. A family caregiver or a professional caregiver can assist with systematically going through someone’s effects in a respectful manner.
A caregiver can start a conversation about why this needs to be done, how they can and should be part of the process, and what each step will look like. Sometimes people can let go of personal items if they know they are going to a favorite charity, family member or those in need. If needed, get books about the joys of lighter living and clutter-free homes to read together.
Go room by room steadily and one at a time so the process is not overwhelming or creating new clutter as you go.
GET A CHECK UP
A home is no longer safe if the person who lives in it cannot properly use their senses to see, hear, smell or taste. Schedule a check-up with their health care provider and perhaps an eye doctor also. January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, which is a reminder about this eye disease for which there are treatments but no cure. Glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness.
A caregiver can provide transportation to and from medical appointments like this as needed.
As people age, their senses can dull and something like the hot water heater temperature not being properly set can cause burns before they realize the danger.
Another hidden risk is spoiled food that someone who is of advanced age or living with certain chronic conditions may not be able to smell or taste is off and then develop illness as a result.
Changes in eyesight as a result of aging or illness can impact how someone is able to get around inside and outside of their home. There are changes that can be made inside the home, such as installing night lights, to make the environment safer after a diagnosis by a professional is made.
Caregiving for someone who is happy to remain in their home may require more than just tending to their emotional and bodily needs from time to time.