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By Natalee Wright

Home is where your health is – how to safely age at home

As we age, most of us want to remain in the comfort of our own homes, even if we need some assistance. In fact, 82 percent of seniors want to remain in their homes even if they need assistance. Only 9 percent want to be in a nursing care facility and only a mere 4 percent wish to live with relatives. With 82 percent of the senior population wanting to remain at home, there are a lot of concerns to consider. The biggest concern is falls. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency room visits in the U.S. and the main cause of in-home accidents in adults over the age of 65. In fact, 75 percent of in-home accidents in this age group are attributed to falls. Luckily, most falls in the home can be prevented. There are many options for equipment and technology that can help the senior population remain in the home.

Traditionally, the aging population were taken in by family members or placed in a skilled nursing facility when they started to need assistance in the home. That is no longer the case. There are many options when it comes to the placement of seniors after assistance is needed. Seniors can remain safely in their current home with the help of equipment, home health and technology. They can also relocate to a senior community that offers these amenities. Furthermore, seniors can relocate to assisted living facilities where all of their needs are met by staff members. Then, of course, there is still the option of relative care or skilled nursing facility care.

For seniors who wish to remain in the home as they age, there are several factors to consider that may impact the senior's physical health and safety. Falls can occur anywhere in the home but are more common in the bathroom, bedroom, around clutter and around stairs. An item as simple as a loose rug can be a factor in whether someone remains standing upright. For seniors who are experiencing issues with memory, medications and meal preparation can be a concern. Luckily, for all of these concerns, there are solutions.

The bathroom no longer has to be a place where falls occur. Assistive devices such as grab bars, shower chairs, commodes and raised toilet seats can be placed in the bathroom to assist the senior in bathing and toilet use without fear of falling. In case that fall does occur and the senior resides in the home alone, emergency response buttons are very useful tools to ensure that help is provided immediately. Concerns with the bedroom can also be stopped with equipment. A senior who has issues getting in and out of bed, or even falling from the bed can benefit from a hospital bed with railing. The hospital bed can be adjusted down to accommodate the senior getting into bed without issue or injury. Clutter can also be a huge concern for falls, environmental hazards and pests, and it can create safety issues for the aging population. Home health aids are able to assist in clearing clutter for the senior, making the risk of falling from cluttered hallways a nonissue. Furthermore, falls caused by stairs can be curbed with stairlifts if the stairway is in the home. This can assist the senior in traveling to another story of the home without injury or issue. Additionally, ramps and railing can be installed in the home to prevent issues with outside stairways.

Memory issues can be another huge concern for those wanting to age in place. Memory issues can cause seniors to forget to take medications or take too many medications. They can cause safety concerns if the senior is using the stove or other appliances that may cause harm if not properly used. Luckily, there are technologies to assist with these issues. Medication reminders can be provided to seniors who forget to take their medications. The reminder is filled by a nurse or pharmacy and the medications are locked in. The reminder is set on a timer and will only allow the senior to access the medications needed for the dose they are currently taking. These reminders have alarms and even phone call technology to remind the senior to take the medications. However, access to the stove and other appliances can be a different story. While smart home technology integration is an option to control the use of appliances, the senior still needs to be able to prepare meals. Community resources and programs such as meals on wheels are a great way to obtain healthy, balanced meals that are easily made in the microwave.

Today, there are so many great technologies and equipment available to help seniors who want to remain in the home even after they need assistance. Aging in place is a wonderful alternative to being placed in skilled nursing care, but there are concerns that need to be addressed for a senior to safely remain in the home. Assistive equipment and technology are essential for seniors to be able to remain in their home as they age.

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