How to design Elder Friendly Home Structures

Pay attention to any thresholds between rooms of the home with the understanding that just a fraction of an inch of rise between rooms can result in a fall.
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Action research was carried out by an investigator in Bone and Joint Hospital Barzulla to examine the pattern of home accidents in elderly patients. 

A convenient sample was chosen during a week period. A Self-constructed questionnaire was used to collect data on (1) demographics; (2) the nature of the accident and injury; and (3) health status. The toilet was the most common site (35%) of the home accidents, followed by the sitting room (19%), the kitchen (16%), the bedroom (15%) and the dining room (15%). I had an opportunity to interview a few of the doctors; they shared valuable inputs with the investigator.

Slips and falls are a major threat to the elderly populace. One of the most serious fractures that an older adult can suffer due to a fall is a hip fracture. Those over the age of 85 are 10 to 15 times more likely to fracture a hip during a fall than those in their 60s.

The declining physical and cognitive abilities of the elderly and their ageing at home require home modifications in terms of the installation of technology and design features for their accessibility and safety.

Carefully consider the safety of your floor covering. Falls are more likely to occur if the elder’s home has loose or worn tile or uneven floors. Pay attention to any thresholds between rooms of the home with the understanding that just a fraction of an inch of rise between rooms can result in a fall.

Due Consideration should also be given to the lighting in the home

The bedroom of the elderly should be located on the ground floor

Promptly wipe up spills on hard surfaces to avoid slipping hazards. Think twice about applying floor wax to your tile floors or polish to wooden floors, as both of these can make the floor slippery. We should have rubber bath mats in the tub or shower to help the elder avoid slipping while bathing, and the shower area should also have at least two grip bars. Toilet seats should be raised, and the toilet area should also have a grip bar.

Ensure that the elder has an up-to-date eyeglass prescription and has had a recent hearing test. Losing one’s vision or hearing can prevent an individual from seeing objects that may cause a fall to take place or from hearing important instructions, such as “watch your step” or “the floor is wet.”

Use extra caution if the elder has recently started a new medication, as falls are most common within the first three days after the medication has been started. Remember that medications that help the elderly with sleeping are often associated with dizziness, which is a major cause of falls.

Pay attention to the elder’s footwear. Slippers are comfortable, but they often do not provide adequate protection. Anything that allows the foot to move around will also increase the likelihood of a fall, as will high heels. Shoes should feature a flat sole, good tread, and be snug on the feet.

Ensure that if the elder’s doctor has recommended the use of a walker or cane, the elder has been trained to use it properly and is using it as directed.

Provide chairs with stable armrests that the elder can utilize when standing up or sitting down.

Eliminate clutter in the home. This means relocating or getting rid of not only boxes or stacks of items, but also removing small rugs and eliminating cords that are stretched across the surface. Furniture should be relocated in such a manner so that there is clear access between important areas of the home. We should vigilantly supervise our pets when in the presence of an elderly individual.

Keep the elderly hydrated, as dehydration is a common cause of dizziness. Bear in mind, however, that frequent hydration leads to frequent trips to the washroom. Pay attention to how far the senior needs to travel between the washroom and bed or a favourite chair, and how clear the path is between those locations.

Dr Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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