Parents want what’s best for their children, and so do grown children who have aging parents. Choosing to resettle a loved one can be a very emotional experience for everyone involved. It requires big adjustments and can also raise many questions and concerns. Will my loved one get the best medical care? Will they be treated with dignity and respect? Is this place truly better for them than their own home? Do the staff know how to keep nursing home residents safe?
Safety is one of the most important qualifications for choosing the right place for the person you love. That’s why we’ve compiled important safety initiatives for you to consider during this transition. We hope you can use this as a guide to help you ask the right questions and sift through your options with confidence and peace of mind. Whether you implement these on your own or you are inspecting the protocols of a full-care facility, these are the safety tips we recommend for retirement homes.
Preventing falls is the most important safety tip for retirement homes. According to Age Well America, falls are the number one cause of fatal injury and nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. In fact, it may be the reason you’re considering a nursing home in the first place. Most admissions into nursing facilities are due to falls, and falls can keep seniors in long-term care for the rest of their lives.
The good news is that it’s easy to prevent falls. With just some simple adjustments to a living environment, a resident can move securely in their spaces. Here are some features to look for or implement that prevent falls and promote safety:
- A fall-proof bathroom: The bathroom is the number one accident area in a senior’s home or retirement facility. A fall-proof bathroom should feature no-step showers, hand-held shower heads, standing or sitting shower options, accessible faucets and nozzles, wide-entry or pocket doors and grab-bars in the shower and by the toilet.
- Hand-rails and grab bars: The bathroom isn’t the only place that should utilize hand-rails and grab bars. Prominent walkways and stairs, if any need to be present, are great places to provide some extra assistance.
- Plentiful and accessible seating: Accessible seating can be helpful for seniors as they perform day-to-day activities. A seat in the shower is helpful as is a bench by the door for putting on shoes. Adequate and accessible seats are also important for fall prevention. If a senior begins to feel weak, lightheaded or shaky, they need to be able to safely sit down to recollect themselves or call for help. It can also act as a makeshift grab-bar or support if necessary!
- Adequate medical alert devices: Unfortunately, even with prevention, a fall can still happen. That’s why it’s also important to have a system in place to address a fall if it does occur. Ask what alerting systems are available in the facility. You may also consider whether your loved one would benefit from a wearable medical alert device.
Another way to prevent falls is to lower a senior’s risk by promoting regular exercise. Look for programs within the facility that emphasize walking and basic strength training. Encouraging your loved one to get in shape before and after a fall takes place can make all the difference. It not only keeps them safe, but it also fosters well-being and independence!
Remove Common Safety Hazards
Tripping can be caused by everyday items that are easy to overlook. Simple items like an area rug or even a two-inch step into the shower can be hazardous for a senior. Fortunately, these things are relatively easy to fix. Inspect your loved one’s room or environment for prominent pitfalls to remove any obstacles in their path. Here is a list of simple solutions for common tripping hazards:
- Remove all area rugs from the floor
- Keep all objects off the floor
- Replace low ottomans or coffee tables
- Create a clear path around furniture
- Bundle wires and keep them away from footpaths
Non-slip flooring is another way to make sure seniors stay on their feet, and most facilities will have this in place. But if their flooring is still tricky for your loved one, it can be helpful to purchase non-slip shoes or heeled slippers for indoor walking. Tripping isn’t the only kind of hazard to consider in a nursing home, however. Here are some other protective measures you can take:
- Child-proof appliances, cabinets and more, if necessary: Depending on their level of independence, some seniors may need child-proofing or auto-shut-off mechanisms put in place to protect them from harm, especially if they insist on doing things themselves or forget their limitations.
- Display emergency numbers prominently: In case of an emergency, displaying contact information in large letters and in easy-to-see or frequented areas can help a senior get help in their time of need.
- Adequate lighting: Most seniors experience some sort of visual impairment, whether that’s poor eyesight in general or poor night vision. Proper lighting can help illuminate tricky places and allow your loved one to walk with confidence around their immediate environment or in other places in the retirement home.
With these safety features, you can ensure the security of your loved one while also affording them peace of mind as they enjoy life in a retirement home.
Protect Wandering Seniors
Memory changes or cognitive decline can result in disorientation and wandering in seniors. Sometimes, despite being fully lucid one moment, a senior may forget where they were going, where they are or what they were looking for and become lost. Intense emotions, like anxiety or fear, or overstimulation can also perpetuate wandering and escalate confusion. If your loved one has episodes like these, keeping them in a safe and staffed facility can be especially important.
Patients living with dementia, no matter the severity, are often prone to these incidents, and retirement homes need to be prepared to keep them safe and secure. Here are some safety measures to look for in a retirement home, as well as some steps you can take to protect seniors:
- Cameras: Cameras are helpful tools for monitoring building entrances and non-private walkways and rooms where a senior could either leave or experience trouble of some kind.
- Locks and security measures on doors: For seniors with less independence, specialized locks and security measures can prevent a wandering loved one from slipping outside undetected.
- Label rooms, objects and furniture: Labeling common objects in your loved one’s room is a small but meaningful gesture that can help them acclimate to new spaces or to assist them as in daily living. Adding their name to the label can also help, so instead of “Bedroom,” use “Walter’s Bedroom.”
- Jewelry inscribed with contact information: Pieces of jewelry with identification information, such as a bracelet or necklace, can be very helpful if an otherwise independent senior becomes disoriented when leaving a retirement facility. If a Good Samaritan comes to assist them, they will then have access to contact information that your loved one may not be able to remember on his or her own.
Compassion is key when redirecting a senior who is lost and confused. Instead of correcting them, try gentle redirections. Be patient as they ask questions that may have obvious answers to you. The calmer you are, and the more you can deescalate the situation, the better off they will be.
Ward Off Infections
Even before a global pandemic, preventing infections from spreading in retirement homes was paramount for senior safety. Senior facilities tend to take extra care to prevent diseases of any kind from spreading, including infections and viruses like COVID, the flu, clostridioides difficile, viral pneumonia or the common cold. Since these infections are highly contagious and cause serious complications for seniors, it can be crippling if they spread to residents and staff in a senior facility.
Certain precautions can help ward off infection and disease among seniors in a facility. Here is a list of important measures to be taken to protect the health of your loved one:
- Stay up to date on vaccinations: Informed vaccination for the flu and pneumonia, as well as COVID-19, can protect residents from more easily contracting these diseases or can diminish the severity of symptoms if the disease is contracted.
- Practice proper hygiene among seniors and staff: Commitment to proper hygiene within retirement communities has been a top priority for years. Staff frequently wash their hands, clean rigorously and use appropriate personal protective masks and equipment. Seniors are encouraged to practice cough and sneeze control, hand-washing and mask wearing as well.
- Surveillance and testing: Regular check-ins with residents can help catch infections before they become severe, which allows staff to implement early detection remedies and control the spread. Regular testing can also assist in this endeavor.
- Mitigation: Once an infection has been detected, retirement homes should have protocols in place to treat sick residents and protect others in the community.
With these simple techniques, retirement homes can stave off infections and the spread of disease, keeping your loved ones in a safe and healthy environment.
Screen for Quality Service
Another area of prime concern is the quality of care and treatment that your loved one will receive in a retirement or nursing home. It’s valuable to do your research into customer complaints or reviews that may indicate whether a facility is on par with the level of care seniors deserve. Elder abuse is an unfortunate reality in our world, and there are ways that facilities work to counteract perpetrators, such as background checks.
Be sure to tour the grounds and get a feel for the quality of the facility you’re considering. Review the safety protocols and examine for any of the hazards we’ve covered in this articles. Ask questions about which hospitals they’re associated with, what their emergency preparedness measures are as well as any evacuations plans in case of any emergencies. It’s okay to be thorough when you’re screening retirement homes to make sure the service will be up to the standard your loved ones deserve.
Schedule Regular Check-ins
Regular check-ins with your loved ones can help keep you apprised of their condition and allow you to help monitor their health and well-being. Visits and phone calls, as well the use of smart devices, can help you stay in touch with seniors. Some of these technologies include:
- Flip phones, which can be used to get in touch with caretakers, providers, relatives and friends.
- Medical alert devices that can be used to get help when the phone is out of reach.
- Smart devices that can be used for reminders or respond to speech commands.
Reliable and structured check-ins are ideal ways to keep consistent records and practice careful monitoring. But life gets busy, and despite everyone’s best efforts, our check-ins and visits don’t happen as frequently as we may like. An excellent solution to this problem is scheduling Well-Check Calls from TowneCare!
Choose TowneCare to Check In On Your Loved One
A Well-Check Call contacts your senior on a predetermined basis. These calls can be automated or they can be managed by a live person, who can speak to a senior and ask helpful questions to discern the status of their well-being. This services can be easily customized for you or your loved one’s specific needs. Whether you need just a simple automated message or a live wellness check, there are ways to oversee the safety of a senior even when we’re unable to do it ourselves. There are many ways to utilize a call service to assist in caring for a senior in a retirement home.
But don’t just choose any service. Choose TowneCare. We strive for excellence and to provide each customer an individualized experience according to their unique needs. Our unparalleled customer service team is responsive, dependable and dedicated to developing a custom solution for each client! We have three primary services for you to consider:
- Live care calls: For families who live far away from elderly relatives, a live care call can be exactly what you need. Our compassionate team of representatives will make daily reassurance calls. While we often provide reminders for meals, medication and appointments, we also talk to your family member about how they’re doing and what they’re up to today.
- Automated care calls or messages: Whether you want an automated phone call or an automated text message, this service can be a simple touchstone throughout a senior’s day to remind them of medications, doctor’s appointments or a simple check-in that’s completed when they answer the phone.
- Monitored check-in calls: Our Automated Care Call service is designed for those who don’t feel the need to talk to a live operator but still want to know that they can summon help should the need be present.
The well-being of your parent, grandparent, spouse, relative, loved one or resident is important to us. Let us ease your mind and provide excellent care on your behalf! Learn more about our services or get started by filling out our contact form or calling us at 215-703-6450.