Posts Tagged "safety"

Avoiding Danger @ Home

Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Safety Concerns |

Safety, including safety in and around our homes, becomes more top-of-mind as we age. Why be concerned? As we grow older, we gradually lose some of our physical strength and mobility. Reflexes may slow, affecting the speed with which we can react to dangerous situations. While some of our cognitive functions actually improve as we get older, others start to slow or decline. This may start happening as early as in our mid-50’s – even for otherwise healthy people! Our home is a good place to start when evaluating our overall safety. Performing a home “safety audit” is a first step to identifying potential hazards and reducing risks for the elderly, including injuries, as well as fraud and other crimes.  Home modifications may allow seniors to stay at home longer, but also reduce the risk of falls and other injuries. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers a wealth of information on home renovations, as well as grants available to qualified seniors: Outdoor home improvements can do double duty, increasing your safety at the same time as providing improved security against break-ins and robberies. Consult the CMHC link above and/or your local police service for information for all homeowners, whether at home or while travelling. Uninvited visitors are in a position to prey on a homeowner’s loneliness, politeness and/or desire to help someone. Basic protection includes installing a peephole and chain on doors. Utilities service personnel typically do not need access to your home, especially without advance notice. Don’t let any one in unless you have initiated a service call. Even then, ask for identification. Never allow uninvited visitors in. If they need to make a phone call offer to make it for them. If they have an emergency, offer to call police or an ambulance for them. Door-to-door marketing can involve a homeowner in a high pressure situation. Do not give out personal information; you can request the visitor leave information in your mailbox for you to review. You are NOT obligated to open your door to any uninvited visitor. For more information on fraud prevention, go to A safe place to call home includes feeling safe in our neighborhood. For safety outside the home, basic guidelines apply, whatever our age. Be aware of your surroundings and know that a frail-looking older person can appear an easier target for purse-snatching or mugging. Choose well-travelled, well-lit areas and shopping or take outings with companions to reduce safety risks. Keep money and ID cards well protected (e.g., in an inside jacket pocket rather than in a dangling purse). Change your banking and shopping routines from time to time.  When out and about, know when vanity may be affecting your safety. In addition to “sensible shoe” choices, you can use mobility aids such as a well-fitted cane or walker to help you avoid serious injury. For additional reading, consult these recent ElderWise articles: Tips for Staying At Home…Safely Beware of “Helping’ Strangers – Especially Visitors in Pairs: A true story from an ElderWise subscriber Choosing – and using – Walking Canes and Walkers (2 separate articles)   © ElderWise Inc. 2012 You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc. We provide clear, concise and practical direction to Canadians with aging parents. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.  ...

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Parents Who Won’t Accept Help

Posted by on Feb 7, 2012 in Caregiving, Family Relationships, Sensitive Conversations |

Originally published at on September 3, 2010. Seniors resist help at home Susan Pigg, Living Reporter More than half of seniors resist asking for help, even from their adult children, fearing it signals a neediness that could land them in a nursing home, a new study shows. That fierce resistance is playing out in so many family squabbles — from the silent treatment to bitter turf wars between aging parents and their grown kids — that the home-care agency Home Instead Senior Care has just launched a series of online self-help videos, one of them focusing on communication. “This is a big problem for family caregivers,” says Bruce Mahony, owner of Home Instead’s Toronto office. “If seniors admit they need help, they think their independence is in question. They worry about losing control of their affairs.” Fifty-one per cent of 24,147 adult caregivers surveyed across Canada and the U.S. by Home Instead Senior Care from 2004 to 2009 say their aging relatives can be so reluctant to accept help, they fear for their safety. Some worry their elderly parents are forgetting to eat meals or take medications in a misguided bid to maintain their independence. Others are managing to hobble along with considerable help from elderly partners who are getting sick struggling to keep up appearances that all is well, elder-care experts say. But a big part of the problem is baby boomer children who feel the overwhelming need to parent their parents, says Mara Osis, co-founder of Calgary-based ElderWise Inc. which offers “family coaching” and advice via the book Your Aging Parents: How to Prepare, How to Cope. “We stress that you are not your parents’ parent. You need to see each other as two adults of different generations trying to work out a problem,” says Osis. The struggles can be even more complicated if the parent is suffering from early dementia and feels confused and threatened by any changes or in-home help from strangers. “Boomers are used to being very much in control of everything in their lives and being able to effect change, so when they see that they are getting push back from their parents, it’s an unfamiliar role. “Sometimes the adult child creates their own problems by saying, ‘I’m just going to fix mom and dad and their situation because the solution is very simple from my point of view.’ ” Read the complete article   ...

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Senior-Friendly Transportation

Posted by on Mar 1, 2011 in Safety Concerns |

Many older persons realize that driving safely becomes more challenging and stressful because of age-related changes in vision, hearing, and general flexibility.  These wise drivers adapt by changing their driving habits. They avoid night driving because of limited vision, and the glare of oncoming headlights. They rely on other transportation when weather is bad, and road conditions are poor. But sometimes changing driving habits is not enough. Some seniors stop driving altogether – either by choice or by medical decision – and they must rely on others. Often, this means riding with family or friends, but this is not always practical. That’s when using public transit and other providers becomes part of a new lifestyle. The transition is not always easy, but finding senior-friendly transportation can make a significant difference in their lives. You can help a senior to accept this change by exploring what’s available. Some bus companies may make additional stops to drop a senior near their door. Also, more buses today feature low floors for easy access. Offer to ride with an older person for the first time, then see whether your municipality has a “bus buddy” program. What are other alternatives and how can you get started? Municipal Services: Your local municipal office is your first stop for information on seniors’ transportation. Inquire about special fares, passes and services. Volunteer Organizations: Call local seniors clubs and ask about volunteer drivers. Taxi Companies:  Some taxi companies provide courteous and helpful door-to-door service. Others are more reluctant to respond to the special needs of seniors. You need to check out their service and reputation. Innovative Private Services:  More and more private companies are offering escorted drives for occasions such as medical appointments.   The holiday season is an excellent time to consider transportation vouchers as a gift. It’s a great solution for seniors who have stopped accumulating things and are difficult to buy for. Frugal seniors who are unaccustomed to “luxuries” like taxi rides may find it easier to use this gift rather than to change long-standing habits. And your peace of mind will increase, knowing your family member has access to safe, convenient transportation, particularly during bad weather.    Vol.2, No.25; © ElderWise Inc. 2006. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO articles, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc., your Canadian source for “age-smart” planning.  Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE bi-weekly newsletter.  ...

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Safety on Stairs

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Safety Concerns |

Declining muscle strength and increasing physical limitations mean that using stairs becomes more challenging for seniors. That’s why they are more likely to fall than younger adults. Seniors who fall are more likely to sustain serious injuries, including fractures. Falling may also cause seniors to lose confidence in their abilities, which can lead to social withdrawal.  Up to 15% of all falls by seniors involve stairs. Sustaining a fall also increases the chances of a senior moving into a nursing home. FORTY PER-CENT of care home admissions are fall-related, and an independent senior who experiences a fall is 3 times more likely to move into a care home. Here are some safety tips from the Public Health Agency of Canada. You can use them to have a conversation with your parents about these risks…and ways to prevent falls. Hazards on Stairs:  Lighting, Handrails, and General Conditions Are the stairs well lit, with light switches at the top and bottom?  If not, explore ways to install extra lighting. Is there a handrail?  Is it well secured and at the proper height? Hint: the height should allow the senior to use the handrail comfortably, with the elbow slightly bent. Should you have two handrails – one on each side of the stairs?  Check the condition of floor coverings on stairs. Does your tile or linoleum have  loose edges?  Is your carpet securely fastened?  Consider replacing carpet with rubber stair treading. Can you see the edge of each stair clearly?  If not, consider adding a contrasting color on edges – either with paint or adhesive strips. Change some habits to increase safety on stairs: Wearing glasses – or not? Do you wear your reading glasses when taking the stairs?  Are you still getting used to those new bifocals?  Make sure you can see the stairs clearly, going up and going down. Proper footwear. Are those old slippers comfortable but unsafe?  Also, stocking feet can slip on stairs.  Try out a new pair of comfortable shoes with proper supports and grips. Carrying. Do you carry objects in both hands?  Keep one hand on the rail, and make an extra trip instead. Use a laundry bag rather than a laundry basket. Clutter. Do you often place things on the stairs – to take up on your next trip?  Obstacles on stairs can cause or contribute to a fall.  Some factors that can contribute to a fall on the stairs may be out of anyone’s control and the list of dangers may seem long.  But the risks of using stairs can be offset by the benefits of weight-bearing exercise: maintaining some muscle strength and helping keep bones strong.  So, don’t avoid the stairs. Instead, manage the risks by removing danger factors and employing safe stair practices. Here’s another resource on this topic:   Steps to Safer Stairs:    Vol.3, No.3 © ElderWise Inc. 2007. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc., Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter....

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Medication Misuse Among Seniors

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Safety Concerns |

Fifty-five per-cent of Canadians aged 15-65 lack the literacy skills to follow drug llabels. These shocking numbers are from a 2003 study of more than 23,000 Canadians. This and several health literacy studies in the U.S. are raising serious alarms about senior safety. Seniors take 2 to 3 times more medications than the general population. They are more likely to have lower literacy rates, and they report difficulty remembering information on medication labels. Studies show that patients who have lower literacy or health illiteracy are more likely to report misuse of medications, and disregard a doctor’s orders. Also, individuals with lower literacy levels are less likely to discuss their health concerns or participate in making health decisions with a health professional. An American study also points out that people rarely read warning labels on prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Serious complications can result if too much of the drug is taken, if the drug is crushed when it’s not meant to be, or taken on an empty stomach when it should be taken with food.  Another study points out that reading and comprehension don’t always go hand in hand.   One study’s participants were able to read the label correctly, but did not always take the correct dose of the candy tablets.  Some people under-report their problems with reading.  People could feel embarrassed; one study participant said:  “They might think I’m a bad person.”  So what can you do? Find a pharmacist that uses the “teach-back” method.  The pharmacist explains exactly how you should take the medication, and then asks you to repeat the information to show that you understand. Read the label carefully, including warnings about dosage limits and the potential for interactions with other drugs. Have good reading glasses and a well-lit place to read labels. When using multiple medications, have a blister pack made up by the pharmacy.  Then you need only remember the time to take the medications. Ask your doctor to discuss drug dosages with you. Many people report getting little information from their doctor about how to take their drugs.   You may think that remembering to take the drug is the most important thing, but taking it incorrectly could render the drug just as ineffective as leaving it on the shelf.   Vol. 3, No. 6 © ElderWise Inc. 2007. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc., Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE bi-weekly...

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