The third step from the bottom squeaks when you tread on it—which is something you tried to remember when you snuck in after curfew.
There’s a light switch near the door that does nothing, and never did. One of the kitchen drawers has a tendency to stick. And someone, sometime, put a strip of wallpaper on upside down.
Yes, the house you grew up in has its peccadilloes but your mother loves it there and she wants to stay. In “Living Safely, Aging Well” by Dorothy A. Drago, M.P.H (c.2013, Johns Hopkins University Press, $16.95 / higher in Canada, 204 pages) you’ll learn how to ensure that she does.
You probably don’t need to be reminded that, as we age, our bodies change. Bones get fragile, eyesight dims, hearing can fade, balance can go out of whack. These things are annoying when you’re younger but can lead to devastating injuries for an elder.
But mere awareness puts you on the advantage. Says Drago, “When you anticipate the possibility of an injury, you can attempt to prevent it.”
Take, for instance, falls.
According to nearly all sources, falls are “the primary injury mechanism for the aging population.” But merely knowing the risk for falls won’t prevent them; you need to know why people fall. Clothing mishaps, problems with furniture, slippery floors, and other environmental reasons can be dealt with individually or with professional help; poor balance, medications and other physical issues can be brought to the attention of a doctor. It can also be reassuring to teach someone how to get up if they tumble.
But though falls may be first on your mind, there are other things to consider when making a home as safe as possible. Kitchens and bathrooms can be literal hotspots, and there are ways to minimize the risk of burns and scalds. Medication mix-ups can lead to poisoning, which can be easily monitored. The risk of choking—the “third leading cause of home injury death among those over the age of 76…"—can be minimized. And good health decisions can be made through health literacy and by asking your doctor to be an ally.
You want to keep mom or dad independent a little longer, whether it’s in their home or yours. Either way, “Living Safely, Aging Well” can give you the tools to do it.
We’ve all seen TV commercials about falling, and while author Dorothy A. Drago, M.P.H. has a huge chapter on that aspect of home safety, I was pleased to see a bigger picture: Drago also digs deeper and offers solutions to other issues that don’t normally come to mind. Boomers will be relieved to know that that includes the hard stuff, like giving up dangerous-but-beloved possessions and furniture, giving up a bit of autonomy, and giving up the driver’s license.
Specifically because of those “I-never-thought-of-that issues,” I think anyone who’s over age 50 needs this book on their shelf. If you’re concerned about safety for a loved one or want to maintain independence yourself, “Living Safely, Aging Well” will give you the steps you need.