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How to Improve Living Room Safety for Seniors

by Jessica Hegg July 01, 2021 0 Comments

Senior man sitting with stand assist

Each room in the home poses its own unique safety risks. When choosing to age at home, seniors should have important living room safety measures in place in order to continue living safe and independently. In this guide, we will cover how to properly evaluate the living room for the biggest safety concerns and cover the all necessary modifications that you should implement.

Standing Up & Sitting Down

The living room is a comfortable place where we often sink into the couch, kick our feet up and relax, but for elderly and those with limited mobility you will need to make sure the seating is comfortable, functional, and easy to get in and out of. Here’s how:

Make Use of Transfer Aids

There are a wide variety of tools and devices that can help your loved one sit and stand from the couch or recliner safely. Some of the most common and easy to implement include:

  • Stand Assist Rails

    Simply slide this metal frame with two padded handrails between the couch base and cushion. This provides both leverage and support to aid in sitting or standing from the couch. It can easily be removed and stored away when not in use.

  • Lift Chairs

    Woman sitting lift chair This chair makes it easy to sit and stand by limiting the need to bend when sitting or standing ( See Product).

    A lift chair is a battery powered recliner that can rise to a safe height that minimizes the need to bend down into the seat and assists in standing. Most designs blend right in with normal living room furniture and some even come with added features like massage or heat.

  • Transfer Poles

    Transfer poles typically run from floor to ceiling and are strategically installed next to the couch or frequently used recliner or chair to aid in sitting and standing. These poles are designed with handrails that run parallel to the ground and used for both leverage and support.

  • Transfer Aids for Caregivers

    Transfer Aids

    A pivot or transfer disc can help to move someone with limited mobility from one position to another safely ( See Product).

    Depending on your loved one’s level of mobility you may or may not need to assist with sitting, standing, or transferring them from a seated position. If this is the case, there are a variety of helpful tools that make this task much easier and significantly reduce the risk of injury (for both you and your loved one). Here are some to consider:

    Transfer Disc

    This disc allows a caregiver to rotate a standing patient 360 degrees by having him or her stand on the plastic rotating platform. This is especially helpful when moving someone from wheelchair to couch or chair.

    Assist Handle

    An assist handle is a simple tool where the caregiver and patient hold opposite ends. The handle provides leverage and allows the caregiver to pull the patient up to seated or standing position.

    Transfer Sling

    Transfer slings are another great tool for leverage. Simply wrap the sling around your loved one’s back and use the handles to pull her or him to a seated or standing position.

    Transfer Belt

    Similar to the sling, a transfer belt secures around a patient and is designed with multiple handles that provide leverage for a caregiver to lift, stand, sit or transfer a patient into a different position.

    Transfer Board

    This tool provides a smooth platform to help slide and transfer a patient from one seated position to another seated position. These are especially convenient for those who are wheelchair bound.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with these transfer tools before putting them to use. If you’re unsure, bring your transfer aid to the next doctor’s appointment or ask the home health nurse to demonstrate how to use it properly.

Learn More About Transfer Devices

Opt for Furniture with Armrests

Couches, chairs and recliners with armrest provide built in support and guide for sitting and standing. Look for armrests that are high and wide for the most reliability. If your current furniture does not include adequate armrest and upgrading isn’t an option, purchase a stand assist rail or transfer pole.

Check that Furniture is Proper Height

Furniture that is too low or high can be extremely difficult for those with limited mobility to sit and stand.

  • If it’s too low you can purchase furniture risers that install under each leg and minimize the range of motion needed to sit or stand.
  • To tell if furniture is too tall, check to see if your loved one’s feet touch the floor when sitting with your back against the back of the couch or chair. If feet dangle without touching the ground, the seat is too high.
  • If furniture is too low or too high, and your budget allows, find furniture that is at the proper height. Power lift chairs are a great option.

Check Integrity of Seating

Old or worn out recliners, couches and seating tends to lose support over time and sink in. This makes it more difficult when trying to stand up out of your seat, especially for someone who has compromised mobility and strength. It’s important to also check new furniture too. Some designs may be too soft or too deep.

Minimize Fall Risks

You’ll want to make sure that you minimize the risks of slips and falls. This includes steps such as; removing unnecessary clutter, creating safe pathways, and incorporating safety features in high traffic areas. Learn more about the ways you can do this below.

Remove the Clutter

Take inventory of the living room and start by removing any unnecessary clutter that could create a tripping hazard. Things like knick knacks, picture frames, candles, and décor on coffee or end tables can easily be knocked over creating trip hazards as well as additional mess to clean up; which can become a dangerous task.

Remove any furniture that isn’t used regularly. This will open up space in the Livingroom for safe maneuvering, especially if your loved one uses a mobility aid that requires more space.

Create Safe Pathways

Clear paths of electrical cords and throw rugs. Both pose huge tripping threats. If you choose to keep the throw rugs, make sure the edges and taped down and don’t start to curl up.

Do what you can to widen the pathway. Remove excess furniture or rearrange the layout.

Ensure Adequate Lighting

Poor lighting can lead to falls, especially for those with impaired vision. Here are some things you can do to make sure your loved one has ample and appropriate lighting in their living room.

  • Improve Overhead Lighting

    This type of lighting is beneficial for performing task like reading, puzzles, knitting, etc. It helps to reduce shadows, reflections, glares, and the need to strain your eyes.

  • Use Touch Activated or Remote Controlled Lights

    Connect lighting to remote controls, install touch activated features, or use clapper lights. This will reduce the need to get up to adjust lighting or overreaching to pull cords that hang from the ceiling fans.

  • Night Lights

    Add night lights that are activated by either motion or light. These automatic lights are incredible beneficial during the evening and night hours. 

Install Grab Bars

Grab bars can be installed in convenient locations where extra support is needed for safe maneuvering ( See Product).

One can benefit from grab bars located in high traffic areas, like entrances to the other rooms, for extra support.

Avoid Bare Feet and Socks

Socks with grips

These non-slip socks provide additional grip and traction to help reduce the risk of slip and falls ( See Product).

Walking around in bare feet or socks without tread can increase the risk of slipping or falling. Elderly adults or those who may have compromised balance should walk around in sneakers or non-slip slippers with tread and support. Socks with grips may also be a good option, but lack support.

Keep Loved One & Needs on the First Floor

Make sure everything that your loved one needs is located nearby and on the first floor to prevent them from having to leave the Livingroom or travel upstairs. 

Improve Safety with Technology

Technology has come along way and can make your life much easier while providing piece of mind. Here are some ways you can use it to your advantage.

Emergency Alert Devices

Emergency Alert Device

This call button is designed to be worn throughout the day for easy access and used in the case of a fall or injury ( See Product).

There are a wide variety of emergency alerts that you can use. Simple pressure sensor mats and motion activated sensors can be used to alert you if your loved one attempts maneuvers that may be dangerous to their safety. Call buttons are another popular option. These can be worn around the neck or wrist and used in case of an emergency or fall that hinders your loved ones ability to reach a telephone.

We recommend assessing your needs and doing a little bit of research on what alerts are right for you.

Google Nest & Alexa

Home assistants like the Google Nest or Amazon’s Alexa are growing in popularity. These devices can help you remember to do tasks, activate other devices, set the thermostat, create reminders, and even act as your home security system. There may be a learning curve for some seniors, but once they learn how to use them, there are a lot of benefits.

How to Protect Furniture

Incontinence pad sofa

Washable incontinence pads are available in multiple sizes. Use these to protect your furniture from moisture, liquids, and spills ( See Product).

With those who are aging from home there may be a concern of weak bladders, incontinence, or inability to get to the restroom in time. You’ll want to make sure the furniture is protected from any moisture or liquids for hygiene purposes.

Utilize Incontinence Pads

Incontinence pads can be used on couches, seats, recliners and even wheelchairs. These pads are designed to protect surfaces by trapping moisture and liquids. Not only do they protect against accidents they’re great for spills. You can purchase reusable or disposable pads.

Use a Slip Cover

Slip covers are a great way to preserve the condition of the fabric on your couch or recliner and protect against spills. If incontinence is a concern you may still want to use absorbent pads under the cover.

Temperature Control

It is important to ensure that indoor temperatures are at safe levels. Especially in winter and summer months when temperatures outside can become more extreme.

Routine Maintenance of Heater and AC

Keep up with routine maintenance of the heater and AC. In locations where temps drop to significant lows, it’s extremely important to make sure the heater is functioning properly and vice versa with summer months in warmer climates.

Thermostat

Make sure that the thermostat is located where it is easy to access and that your loved one understands how to use it. You may even want to consider one that hooks up to an app so that you can control it from your phone.

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are a great way to help better control temperatures inside the home. Consider connecting a remote so that controls can be easily accessed without having to get up or overreach.

Windows

Check that the windows are properly sealed to protect against inclement temperatures. You should also check that the screens are in good condition so that the windows can be opened when the weather is nice.

Installing curtains or shades can also help to better control room temperature.

Space Heaters

While space heaters are a great way to heat smaller spaces, we advise that you use your best judgement when deciding whether or not to use one. Heaters can be a fire hazard, if you do decide to use one make sure you place it at least 3ft away from anything that can burn (i.e. curtains, bedding, furniture, etc.). These devices should never be left unattended.

Hire a Caregiver

Caregiver assisting senior

A professionally trained caregiver will ensure your loved one is safe and assist with day to day activities.

If your loved one lives alone, consider hiring help to be there when you can’t be. A caregiver can help with mobility, feeding, toileting, safety, and any medical needs as well as provide comfort and company.

Take Advantage of Daily Aids

Reaching eyeglasses reacher grabber

Eliminate the need to bend down or overreach for dropped items ( See product).

Aids for daily living are designed to make every day tasks easier to complete for those with limited mobility. They also help reduce the risk of injury by eliminating the need to bend, overstretch, or maneuver around to accomplish tasks. Here are some commonly used ones for the living room.

Overbed Tables

Overbed tables work great with just about any type of seating. These working or eating surfaces are on wheels and can be easily rolled from location to the next and tilt for more comfortable access.

Reacher Grabbers

Reacher grabbers are useful for picking items up off the ground, from behind or under furniture, and for reaching items located up high or out of reach. Using one of these tools eliminates dangerous movements, twists and turns that often result in injury if not careful.

Choosing the Best Reacher Grabber

Couch Caddy

Organize essentials all in one, easy to reach, location. A couch caddy attached to the side or arm of the couch or chair. They typically have multiple pockets and hold items like remotes, magazines, newspapers, books, glasses, water bottles, etc. 

Seat Cushions

Not only do seat cushions add comfort, they are helpful for those who struggle with posture, back and coccyx pain, or hemorrhoids.

Choosing the Best Seat Cushion

Magnifying Glasses 

Keep one of these handy for anyone with impaired vision. 

Fire Safety

Smoke Detector

Smoke detector batteries should be replaced once a year and the entire smoke detector every 10 years.

Evaluate the space for potential fire hazards and talk about fire safety with your loved one. Here are a couple things to consider.

Smoke Detectors

Make sure these are routinely tested to ensure they are functioning properly and that the batteries are not dead. You should check and test the smoke detectors once a month.

Get Rid of Candles

Encourage your loved one to not use candles in the house. These can be easily forgotten about and pose a huge risk to starting fires if left burning or unattended.

Space Heaters

We mentioned above that space heaters are great for confined areas during the winter months, but they are also a fire risk if not used properly. Please consider the risks before allowing your loved on to use a space heater.

Safe Flooring

Quality flooring can help reduce the risk of falls and can make it easier for loved ones to navigate the room. If you know your loved one is at high risk for falling or uses mobility aids to get around, start with evaluating the condition of the flooring. Here are some tips:

  • Check for damaged or loose floorboards or carpet that may be coming up or exposing tacts.
  • Vinyl flooring should have adequate non-slip coating
  • Carpets can be hard to maneuver with walking aids & harder to clean up spills. If carpet, choose low-pile instead of shag
  • Tile or stone can be dangerous in the case of a fall or even dropped items
  • Soft wood, laminate, and vinyl are good options that are soft on the feet plus easy to maneuver and clean

Evaluate Staircases

Stepping on Staircase

Do your best to minimize the need for your loved one to use the stairs at home and make sure they are as safe as possible.

If there is a staircase located in or close to the living room, you’ll want to make sure that appropriate safety measures are in place. We strongly encourage those with limited mobility or poor balance to avoid the stairs altogether, but if that’s not an option here’s some things you can do.

  • Keep stairs free of clutter
  • Fix any broken, uneven, or loose steps
  • Make sure the stairs are well lit
  • Install light switches at both the bottom and top of staircase
  • Install a stair lift
  • Secure handrails on both sides
  • Use anti-slip tape when necessary

Other Things to Consider

Television

If your loved one spends a lot of time watching TV, check that the picture quality is good so that they are not straining their eyes. You can also turn on the closed captions for those who are hard of hearing.

Window Locks

Adequate window locks are important for safety and security. Check that these are functioning properly and are easy for your loved one to open and close if need be, especially for those with arthritis or a decrease in dexterity.

Air Quality

Air purifier

An air purifier can help to improve the quality of air and allow your loved one to breathe easier ( See Product).

Poor air quality can lead to allergies and illnesses. Using an air purifier in the living room is a simple way to remove dirt, dust, molds, debris and allergens from the air. During the dryer months, adding a humidifier to the room can provide similar benefits by adding moisture into the air. Both will help to improve air quality for healthier and cleaner breathing. 

Improving the Safety of Your Living Room

As we age the risk of injuries, accidents, and slip and falls inside the home increases, mostly due to decreased balance, vision, and mobility as well as an increase in both mental and physical fatigue. By following the tips in this article you can create a safer place for your loved one to live and peace of mind.

Jessica Hegg
Jessica Hegg

Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at ViveHealth.com. With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.



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