Quick Safety Checklist for Caregivers When Visiting Aging Parents
I love lists. In fact, I recently read an entire book about lists (Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed, by Paula Rizzo). If you are feeling scattered, I highly recommend this book since it is a quick read and will help you get yourself organized.
Lists aside, one of the main concerns for caregivers is the safety of their loved one at home. If you don’t live with your caree, it can be stressful not knowing whether their home is a safe place. Using your visits to do quick safety checks can alleviate some of the stress. Of course, there are the big safety concerns like fall prevention and fire safety, but there are also little things that we forget to consider.
Sometimes, when we know an environment well – like your parents’ home – it can be easy to miss things that may be a safety risk. Your parents are probably used to it, as are you, so no one notices the simple things that are no longer safe. As your parent ages, you need to be more aware of potential hazards so they can age in place.
Safety Checklist for Caregivers
Here are 10 quick safety checks that you can do the next time you visit your loved one. These are all simple things that may go unnoticed.
*This post contains affiliate links which means I may receive a small compensation at no additional cost to you. Your purchase helps make it possible for me to continue providing caregiving resources at no cost.
- Check the smoke alarms. Are the smoke alarms more than 10 years old? They need to be replaced. While you’re at it, replace them with a combo carbon monoxide/smoke detector and be sure they are placed throughout the home – hallways, bedrooms, second floor, etc. Do let fire safety slide to the bottom of your to do list.
- Get the mail together. Ask your parent to walk to the mailbox. Is he/she able to safely get down the steps? If he/she uses a walker, you may need to consider a ramp because it is extremely difficult/dangerous to manage stairs with a walker. Many times, caregivers visit their parents at home but the visit is only on the inside of the home. Think about what your parent does during a regular day and have them walk you through it for a quick home safety check. For example, if your mom keeps paper towels on a shelf in the garage, go with her to get a roll. Does she need to squeeze past a bunch of things to then reach high to get it? It may be time for a new storage location.
- Check access to frequently used items. Are pots and pans in an out of reach cabinet? What about drinking glasses? Can you reconfigure where things are in the kitchen so your parent can access them safely and easily without needing to stretch or use a step stool?
- Check the light bulbs. You’d be surprised at how many of my customers climbed on a dining room table to replace a light bulb so they wouldn’t trouble their family. Turn on all the lights and make sure all of the bulbs are working. Proper lighting is important to home safety.
- Check lighting in their bedroom. Does your parent need to walk several steps into a dark room to turn on a light? If so, consider a nightlight or a “clapper.” On that same note, is there a night light in the hallway and bathroom they use at night? Make sure to evaluate any fall hazards in their bedroom to keep them safe at night.
- Check for clear paths. Some people tend to accumulate a lot of items as they get older. If your aging parent has a lot of stuff lying around, make sure there are safe, clear pathways throughout the house. If you can, help them with decluttering and downsizing.
- Look in the refrigerator. If your aging parent is still doing his/her shopping and food prep, make sure they are actually able to do it. Is their fridge empty? Maybe shopping has gotten too difficult. Are there a bunch of random ingredients but no actual food made? Maybe they’re having a tough time cooking.
- Check the furniture. We recently bought my dad a nice new chair that is slightly higher than the rest of his furniture. We noticed he was having a tough time getting out of lower furniture, which could lead to a fall. Is your parent struggling to stand up from his/her couch? It may be too low. For their safety, invest in a nice, firm chair at the right height for them.
- Check outgoing messages and discuss phone fraud. If your aging parent’s outgoing voice message is his/her voice saying “I’m not home,” consider recording a new message in your voice stating “We’re not available.” While you’re at it, discuss phone fraud with your parents. Predators seek out the elderly to try to trick them out of money far too often.
- Take a ride in their car. When was the last time your parent drove you in his/her car? If it has been a while, ask them to drive you to their grocery store (or somewhere they regularly drive). Are they safe on the road? Are they anxious? Would you want a small child to ride with them? If you’re concerned about their driving safety, check out my eBook “Taking the Keys Away from Elderly Parents: How to Help Your Elderly Parents Give Up Driving and Set Them Up For Success.”
These quick safety checks can be done in one visit. Of course, if you have more time, or there is an area that really concerns you, check out my various safety guides on topics from fall prevention to elder abuse and fire safety to make sure your loved one is safe at home.