My parents are getting to 70s years old and not living with us. What are the safety issues I need to worry the most?

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My parents are in general healthy but they are getting to their 70s. I started to see they sometimes left the stove running and forgot...is this a common concern? what do you do if your parents had those incidents?

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With my Mom getting up off the couch was a problem. Her case worker suggested putting something hard and solid underneath the couch cushion that she usually sat on. In our case it was a table leaf. You know the piece of a dining table that you can take off. Especially if its an old couch and they really sink into it.

Also make sure there is room to navigate around their home. Shuffle the furniture around possibly. Remove anything that could become an obstacle to getting around.

Shower seats and hand held shower attachments of course. Also maybe get them some light hand weights they can use sitting down to keep the strength up in their arms. My Mom's biggest issue was loss of strength from inactivity. Encourage your parents to move around more and not just sit all day.
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Falling is a big issue, and there are companies that sell pants, etc., with built-in padding for the hips.
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Some hospitals have geriatric nurse practitioners who will arrange for your parents to get a professional to come in and get the house ready for them. It's like baby proofing except for old people. They measure lighting in foot candles. They notice everything, are objective, and will hand you a list of things to do and explain why. It's much harder for parents to argue with a professional than their child.
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Exterior security lights would be another ideal feature to add. It will require some adjustment to get them positioned so that they only go on for larger objects, such as humans, in their path. If not, they can be activated by small animals; they can also be activated by wind movement.
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Jeannegibbs, loved ur post. Had to laugh though as I am approaching that age soon and see myself in your comments. I just call it my "Sometimers".
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Majorly falls would be my number one concern but there are a lot of other issues too. The trouble is as we get older and frailer in years our brains often think we can do far more than we can AND in the way we used to (like standing on a chair to change a light bulb!)
So I am going to try to put together the things you need to really get your folks to understand.
Firstly you aren't trying to run their lives but you are going to make damned sure that even if they don't need it now the safety is in place for when they do. (of course they won't need it now - even if they do!)
1 check all flooring. Is is safe secure and are the floors clear of clutter and rooms well lit. Avoid rugs - they will ruck up and then falls risks increase 10 fold
2 Areas near toilets need rails more than anywhere else the need to sit quickly and manage underwear seems to be a serious cause of many falls around the toiletting area
3 Baths might be ok if there are sufficient rails and sufficient bath floor security but walk in showers with rails are far safer - make sure the bathroom flooring is non slip too - often better if it is darker in colour it sharpens their vision if they can determine their feet from the flooring and the flooring from the walls - either way make sure all taps have temp controls so that they cannot burn themselves
4 Lighting - We now have LED cold lights in all the rooms the colour is blue white not dissimilar to daylight and Mum finds it easier to see in that light especially at night when she is moving between bed and commode
5 Stairs - two handrails that are sturdy is a must and worn carpet has to go . A must for us was a two way switch that was lit so that Mum wasn't feeling for it at night and then because she couldn't find it she would manage without it (well she always had done!) Plain carpets are best and if you need to make sure that you have some form of lighting down the stairs - you can buy LED strips now that you could put down the sides of the stairs under the handrails
6 Electricity is safer than gas although many gas cookers today have fail safes on them - my hob goes off if I leave the gas on
7 I have emergency lighting in case we have an electricity cut (after I found Mum trying to manage her walker and a lit candle!)
8 Some form of care alarm is a good idea so that an emergency call can be made in the event of a fall or sudden illness
9 Check their food is in date - when I first went there some of Mums was out of date by 4 years - not for long though!
10 Try to instil in them that slippers should fit well and be supportive not something they just slip their feet into - better for them to wear well fitting secure sandals than slippers that are worn or just not suitable
11 Perch stools are great for people who find standing for long periods tiring and because they are sat so low down make getting up easier- great for the kitchen and bathroom sinks (no not in them!)
12 Fire alarms/smoke alarms /CO2 alarms are a must
Getting boilers serviced regularly will help minimise risks
13 Mum used to hang her cloths over chairs and sit them by the fire to dry (or scorch or catch fire if they knock them) if possible a tumble drier will stop that issue as long as they defuzz the filter each time - if not it becomes its own fire hazard)
14 Medication - some medications increase the risk of falls especially if taken at the wrong time. Additionally failure to take or overdosing is obviously dangerous..Dosette boxes eliminate a lot of the problems there and everyone should review their meds after the first month and then annually.
15 Rearrange the kitchen so they never need to carry hot water. We had a water heater that we could fill with cold water and then just press a button and it would dispense a cupful of boiling water. We also used mugs for that cupful of water so there wasn't a scald risk

Thats by no means all of the things you need to think about but it will give you some idea.

REMEMBER IF THEY CANT GET IN AND OUT EASILY NEITHER CAN EMERGENCY SERVICES
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Jeanne, I had to chuckle, the same thing happened to me when I was first married back in the 1970's :)

Idocare, glad you are thinking ahead, but unless your parents have serious medical issues or are fall risks I wouldn't worry too much. My worry started when my parents where in their 90's and still were living in their home. I don't think my Mom ever left the stove on for anything to burn as she carried around with her a cooking timer that would ring so loud it would scare the daylights out of me.

As my parents got into their 90's, falling was my biggest worry as Dad was starting to lose his balance. If you start to notice your parents are going up and down the stairs overly cautious, maybe it would be time for them to move to one-level living.

I know I am very careful with stairs now that I will be 70 but that is because of a fall I had in a parking lot [fell off my shoes, so much for style], and I am thinking of maybe adding another railing on the empty wall. At the office building where I work, there are hand rails on both sides, what a difference !!
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It's good that you are concerned. It may be nothing but if this sort of thing is happening a lot there could be some early dementia. You should read up on the signs of dementia on this site.

In addition to making the house safe as J Gibbs points out, this may be a good time to begin preparing for the long term care of your folks. Check into the legal stuff, wills, POA, medical directives, end of life wishes etc. I would not go charging into the conversation but the more planning you can do now will save you enormous hassles as your folks age.

Also think about the day when you have to take over the finances. Do you know much about their debt, insurance, pensions etc?

My Dads dementia became very clear at about age 80. Luckily he was cooperative and I was able to get most things in order and gradually took over the bills and finances but I had to search the world over to figure out his investments. I just had a meeting yesterday with his annuities agent. I'd been trying for 5 years to track this stuff down and get a handle on it.

I don't mean to sound alarmist, but the earlier folks can begin this process for their elders the better for all concerned.
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I'm 71. The most serious stove incident in my life was putting a steak under the broiler and then falling asleep, to awaken to a kitchen filled with dark smoke. It was 2 in the morning, I'd just come home hungry from a dance. I was 19! (And old apartments 50 years ago did not have smoke alarms.)

More recently I've removed dinner from the oven and forgotten to shut it off until I noticed it while cleaning the kitchen after dinner.

Is that the kind of thing you mean? Any one of any age can have a lapse in safe practices (unfortunately).

Or are your parents habitually leaving stove burners on? You don't live with them, so how do you know about these incidents?

If your parents are willing and receptive, you might help them check that they have smoke detectors in all the right places, and also carbon monoxide detectors. You might (IF they are receptive) review some safety materials with them, that go over such things as having a spot for all household members to meet if they leave the house during an emergency. In other words, probably the same things they taught you once upon a time.

I worry about falling. I haven't, but I know that is a risk as I get older. Have you noticed loose scatter rugs in your parents' home? Magazines or newspapers left sitting on the floor (perhaps near where they were being read) and that someone could slip on?

Are there non-skid mats in the tub and/or shower?

Are stairways clear, or do they have objects sitting here and there? Does each stairway have a sturdy banister/railing?

If they live where it is necessary, are their sidewalks and driveway kept snow-and-ice-free?

Generally healthy people in their 70s are not typically in need of their children's worry about safety issues. But being observant when you visit them may suggest a few things that could lessen their risks.
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