Caregivers Home Safety

Home Safety Tips for Caregivers

Written by Anthony Emecheta

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 24.3% of Black adults in the United States are caregivers which is higher when compared to their white counterparts (23.1%). What is even more interesting is that these Black adults take up the caregiving role at a younger age (averaging 47.7 years) compared to white adults (at an average of 51.7 years).

Many caregivers take up the role without professional training, often leaving them and their loved ones vulnerable to home accidents. The reason why families and friends are often laden with the responsibility of providing care for their loved ones is often tied to socio-economic factors. Not many families in Black communities can afford to send their loved ones to a nursing home or hire specialists or afford the right tools. Also, many of us are not aware of the free resources or items available and miss the opportunity to lighten our burden.

Creating a safe home will depend on the physical and mental state, as well as the health condition of your patient or loved one. This article will explore the different ways caregivers can make homes safer for loved ones.

Home safety tips for caregivers to the physically challenged

It is sad that non-Hispanic Blacks have as high as a 60% chance of being diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic whites—and diabetic foot ulcer is one of the leading causes of limb amputation. When you are providing care to someone who is physically challenged (lost limbs or is old and frail and struggles with mobility), the first safety tip you must consider is ensuring their safe navigation at home. This may require some form of modification to the home as follows.

Stair ramps

Ramps can make it easier for people in wheelchairs to ascend or descend a short flight of stairs. Thankfully, there are portable ramps that can be placed across stairs to make navigation easier for those on wheelchairs.

Grab bars and handrails

Wet areas are guilty of causing the most falls—even among healthy people. You can lower the risk of falls in wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens by installing grab bars and handrails. However, handrails or grab bars can also be installed along corridors where frail seniors walk so that they can hold onto them while independently navigating through the home.

Declutter walkways and mop up spills quickly

Spills and cluttered walkways are recipes for slip and fall injuries which tend to increase as adults get older. Make sure walkways are free from objects or spills that can lead to slip and fall injuries—especially when grab bars are not installed. For more ways to make a home safer for physically challenged people, see our previous publication on creating a handicap accessible home.

Home safety tips for caregivers to seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s

The CDC estimates that around 14% of Black seniors above the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s which is higher than the 10% reported among white people of the same age range. The Alzheimer’s Association reported that 21.3% of Black seniors above 70 years live with the mental condition. Racism and health conditions like heart disease and diabetes are some of the factors fingered for higher Alzheimer’s in Black communities. When caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, here are the modifications you should make.

Adjust lighting for visibility and to reduce triggers

Studies have suggested that light therapy may be beneficial to people with Alzheimer’s. This is an important factor to consider when making modifications to the home if you are a caregiver to an Alzheimer’s disease person. Install night lights for safety, especially if your loved one wakes up frequently at night. Also, make sure hallways are properly lit and that there are no dark corners in hallways or shadows that can disorient them. Keep mirrors and other objects that can cause befuddling glares covered.

Restrict access to dangerous areas and items

Keep rooms that contain harmful items always locked including garages and basements so that your loved ones cannot access them unsupervised. Also, keep dangerous items including car keys and alcohol locked or out of their reach.

Monitor them with technology

In extreme situations where your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s wanders off a lot, the use of technology can help you to keep track of them or find them whenever they are lost. For example, installing safety locks with alarms on doors, windows, and gates can prevent them from wandering unnoticed. You can also make them wear electronic tags with GPS trackers at all times to make it easier for you to locate them.

Tips for caregivers to stay safe while offering care

Caregivers also need to prevent injuries to themselves while caring for others. Each time they visit the homes of their patients, they are presented with new sets of challenges—some of which are unique to the homes. The following tips will help caregivers to stay safe while on their jobs.

Be extra mindful of your step

Care homes and medical facilities usually have a team that maintains the grounds but the same cannot be said about private homes. Therefore, when you visit a home to offer care, you must be extra careful about where you place your foot to make sure you don’t trip on objects or sink in rotting wood. Be mindful of slippery surfaces too.

Be cautious around pets

Some of the homes that you may visit will likely have pets. Don’t expect the pets to be friendly. Also, pets can sometimes interfere with your work. However, always ignore pets as much as possible and focus on your patient.

Never overstep your limit

Trouble usually begins for caregivers when they overstep their limits. Always respect the cultures of your patient including their opinion about bringing your outdoor shoes indoors. Also, don’t try to impress by overexerting yourself. If a patient is too heavy for you to transfer, call for help.

Caregiving doesn’t have to be a one-man show. Feel free to seek help when you need it. Working with a team of specialists to explore home care options can take a huge load off your shoulders and create a safer environment for you and your loved ones. Also, keep your eyes peeled for resources that offer free or low cost items that may improve the quality of life of your loved ones as well as lessen the financial burden on yourself.

For more reading

https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/caregiver-brief.html

https://amzn.to/3yEhAn6

https://amzn.to/4bMkapw

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6927a5.htm

https://projects.apnews.com/features/2023/from-birth-to-death/alzheimers-black-americans.html

https://www.alz.org/help-support/resources/black-americans-and-alzheimers

https://www.vnshealth.org/patient-family-support/health-library/home-safety-tips-for-dementia-caregivers

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9753196

https://amzn.to/4aAej5H

About the author

Anthony Emecheta

Anthony Emecheta holds a master’s degree in microbiology. He is a passionate educator and particularly an advocate of racial equality. He strongly believes the world will be a better place if we all see ourselves as humans first before anything else.

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