The number one concern for any person as they get older is the prospect of losing one’s independence. One of the leading causes for being placed in the care of someone else is due to a physical injury that has made them unable to take care of themselves.
The two predominant areas where injuries arise are at work and in the home. Seniorproofing these environments makes good sense no matter who you are; as the person who requires the proofing or as an employer looking after your aged employees.
Senior proofing at work
As an employer, there is a legal duty under Work, Health and Safety laws to ensure the reasonable safety of your employees. Even though this is a legal requirement, it is both a social responsibility and common sense too. No reasonable employer wants to see a member of their staff injured as a result of the workplace environment. Not only is it an emotional concern, but a significant business concern. You can lose a well trained employee, you may be liable for workers compensation premiums, and there is the added cost of having to train a replacement employee. It makes good business sense to senior proof your workplace. You should turn your attention as an employer to the work environment, and make an assessment by considering its layout and identifying the areas of risk. It does not have to be a costly and timely project, as often there are cost-effective and simple measures that can be implemented within a couple of weeks to improve the safety of a business for the elderly. Common areas for concern include:
- Surfaces that may become slippery when wet or if there are spills on it. A sturdy non-slip mat can effectively minimise this hazard area.
- Areas that are frequently accessed but not easy to access (because they are high up or there is clutter around the area). You may be able to resolve this by re-arranging furniture, or clearing a separate pathway to the area.
- Areas where there are electrical cords. You should tidy these up to avoid employees tripping.
By turning your attention as an employer to risk areas, removing clutter, making it easier to reach items that are frequently accessed and ensuring non-slip surfaces are in place, you can senior proof your workplace with little effort, but help to protect yourself, your staff, and your customers.
Senior proofing your home is all about arranging your home in a way that reduces the risk of injury. A useful approach to senior proofing is to systematically consider each room in your home, and identify the risks or safety hazards present. Consider ways in which the room can be improved for ease of access. Here are some suggested considerations.
Too often people slip on wet tiles or trip up when getting in and out of their shower or bathtub. A simple and very cost effective measure is to ensure your tiles, shower, or bath tub have non-slip surfaces. Placing a mat on your tiles or having a mat appropriately sized for your bathroom floor, shower, or bathtub may be one such simple measure. Installing non-skid strips or decals is another cost-effective measure. Handrails and guards in the shower and bathtub can also be installed, and are an incredibly useful way to prevent slipping.
Getting in and out of bed is a well-known source of injuries in the home. Ensure that the area around the bed promotes easy access, and if your bed is on floorboards you should consider placing a rug or mat where you first get out of bed to prevent slipping. Know how to get out of a bed safely -roll to your side and sit up first. Place legs on the floor in sitting position and then support yourself out of bed. Consider the lighting in your bedroom. Do you have an ability to light up the room without having to first walk in the dark? An extra lighting fixture can resolve an injury that may occur from tripping up in the dark.
Lounge room and stairways
Often rugs in the lounge room have frayed edges or are curled up in places, making it very easy for elderly people to fall. Ensuring a secure rug or mat is covering your floor will prevent the risk of tripping up. Minimising clutter and again ensuring your room is able to be lit easily without having to walk in the dark can be simple and inexpensive ways to prevent the risk of injury in your home. Ultimately seniorproofing is merely using common sense to prevent injuries. You are the best person to know what your needs are in the home or at work. If you’re not sure how to make these small changes, ask a family member or a friend to help you make your home more safe.