Making Homes Safer for Seniors
By Jill Fales
Long-time Newport Beach resident, Judy Brady, is an expert in senior home care, and the owner of Assisting Hands® Home Care. She knows how important it is for baby boomers as they age to be able to live independently in their homes for as long as possible and “stay in place” safely.
“Paramount to independence is safety,” Brady says. “After the age of 65, 80 percent of injuries are related to falling.
“Fall prevention is one of the most important aspects of keeping a senior at home comfortably, but there are many other things homeowners can do to make their home safe.”
Brady, a lively and active senior herself, explains that some of the changes take only a few minutes, while others can involve minor construction.
Typically, when a client is looking for in-home assistance, Brady will first come out to the home and make an evaluation of needs and limitations, before coming up with a plan to make the home as accessible and safe as possible. Assisting Hands’ services not only benefit seniors, but anyone who has been injured, is recovering from surgery or childbirth, or hosts parents or other guests with some limitations.
Once the in-home assessment is complete, Brady and her staff carefully match the appropriate caregiver with each client. She shared some of her wisdom about senior home safety with the Coastal Real Estate Guide.
Q: Describe the journey that led you to your business and what exactly Assisting Hands Home Care provides.
A: I started Assisting Hands because of my own personal experiences with aging parents and my husband’s mother. Because of health problems, they needed assistance with certain activities of daily living, but did not want to move to assisted living, or board and care situations. Having experienced some difficult situations with caregivers, I became very involved in helping our parents find experienced, dependable well-trained caregivers. Believe me, it was not easy!
My clinical background as a Speech/Audiologist provided me with some valuable insights into what skills were necessary to own and run an in-home care agency. So I decided to evaluate existing business models in the home care industry, and after doing my research, decided to become the regional developer for Assisting Hands Home Care for Orange County, making me the first franchise owner for the company in California.
My philosophy is to hire only caregivers that I would have in my own home and I am extremely stringent in my hiring and supervision practices.
Assisting Hands always conducts home safety evaluations in all of our clients’ homes before starting service. Recommendations are made to the client and family members on improvements that should be made in the home in order to reduce the risk of falls and related injuries. These changes do not take away from the beauty of the home, but rather ensure that our clients can stay as safe as possible in their own home and maintain their quality of life.
Q: What do people need to know when helping an elderly parent, or as they look into their own futures?
A: As we age, home safety issues become more important than ever! Older adults find that their vision, hearing, memory or strength isn’t what it was in the past. Fear of falling can result in lack of physical exercise thus limiting mobility. When you make a home safe, you actually increase someone’s physical activity in the home which is important to overall health.
Q: How can people continue to safely enjoy their yards, pool area and outside spaces?
A: Outdoor areas should be kept free of abrupt edges on driveways and pathways. Handrails should be on stairs and steps with walk areas clear of clutter, tools and rocks. Lighting should be installed by doorways and walkways. Surfaces should not be slippery. All living areas, inside and out, should have a change in color to denote changes in surfaces levels. The floors should be kept free from clutter, and electrical cords should be out of the way. All loose mats and rugs should have skid-proof tape.
Q: How can a bathroom be transformed into a safer place, without losing the beauty of the space?
A: Simple installations such as grab bars in shower and toilet areas can be painted to match the color scheme. Raised toilet seats and shower chairs make bathroom falls preventable. Adding more non-skid bathmats and even a beautiful chair in the bathroom to sit while doing hair, make-up, or even brushing teeth can make daily tasks safer.
Q: What are among the most dangerous things in a home?
A: Lack of lighting and stairs. Many people do not have areas lit well enough, not only during the night, but also during the day. Each area of the home should be bright enough at all times. Lighting next to a bed and hallways is crucial even if you are familiar with the room. Night lights or motion sensitive lighting is important throughout the house. There are new systems on the market to activate lights more easily. A firm chair with arms to sit and dress is helpful, and bed height is important to ease getting in and out.
Single level homes are ideal for aging seniors. But those are a rarity in homes along the coast, especially homes with a view. Those with two-story homes should make sure stairs have good lighting; secure handrails on both sides should be 34 inches high and a diameter of 1.5 inches. Carpet must be secured on all steps. A reflective strip is ideal for the top and bottom of all stairs.
Many people have installed elevators or ramps to replace stairs. There are special permits that may be required though, such as height of railings and width of ramps. You can work with an architect to make sure any changes made to your home are not only safe, but within code.
Q: Any advice in the kitchen or common areas?
A: All homes should be equipped with easily accessible fire extinguishers. Keep items that are frequently used in lower convenient locations. Furniture should be arranged so that it is easier to get around, and couches and chairs should be easy to get in and out of. Keep phones and remote controls as cordless as possible.
Q: Anything else important to remember?
A: Seniors need privacy and don’t want people coming in and taking their independence away. They want to maintain a life of dignity as long as possible in their homes and any changes to someone’s home must be made with compassion and understanding.
Judy Brady can be contacted at Assisted Hands Home Care. It is located at 81 Dover Drive #300, Newport Beach. Call 949.650.2550 or visit www.assistinghands.com.