As parents age, adult children may be called upon to help their parents with daily tasks. When your parents are able to continue living in their own home, rather than a retirement community or a healthcare facility, they may need assistance with chores, errands and general repairs.
If you’re now in the position of helping your parents maintain their home, the most important thing you can do is make sure they’re safe. Following are some ways to do that.
Take care of repairs
A rickety chair, a tricky doorknob or a floorboard that’s a little warped are all problems that can easily be fixed — and sometimes, you might put off these quick repairs in your home. But in your parents’ home, anything that impedes their ability to get in and out of the house or poses a safety risk needs to be repaired right away.
Keep a tool set at your parents’ home, so when you visit, you can repair problems as they pop up. Pay special attention to thresholds, floorboards and tile, which can come loose and create a tripping hazard.
Make sure the home is secure
Burglars tend to pick homes that will offer the least resistance, so homes with elderly residents could make an attractive target. One way to deter burglars is to use floodlights to illuminate the exterior of a home and keep landscaping tidy, so burglars can’t take cover while trying to break in.
Discuss with your parents common ways burglars enter homes. For example, people who have attached garages sometimes leave the interior door unlocked, allowing easy access for anyone who can open the outer garage door.
Provide emergency communication devices
You may not be able to convince your parents they need smartphones, but you may be able to persuade them to use simple, big-button phones that are designed specifically for elderly people. You can program the phone to speed-dial you with the touch of a button, to call 911 or to connect with an operator. Encourage parents to keep their phones on them at all times.
You could also ask your parents whether they’re comfortable wearing a personal emergency response system. Usually worn around the neck, these devices really can save lives in an emergency, by allowing injured or ill people to call for help with the touch of a button.
Fire escape plan
If your parents’ home were on fire, would they know how to escape quickly and safely? Ask them if they have an escape plan, and if — like many Americans — they don’t, help them develop one.
Bedrooms should have two escape routes — if one of those routes is a window, make sure it opens easily. You may need to install simple fire escape ladders, even in single-level homes, to enable your parents to exit safely. Practice your escape plan to make sure parents can get out and move a safe distance away from the house. And every room in the house should be equipped with a working smoke detector.
You don’t need to monitor your parents’ every move to keep them safe. But keep an eye out for potential hazards whenever you visit — and visit often.