Aging in Place

Making an Aging in Place Seniors’ Bedroom Safer Without Having to Remodel

"Beth, a 90 year old senior living alone"

Beth is an active 90-year-old woman who lives alone in her one level townhouse. She has lived alone for many years and has a good support network of family and friends from church. Beth is John’s cousin and they talk weekly. John has mentioned how he and his wife Elsie are searching for a home to age in place. Beth has no intention of moving or spending her retirement on a pricey remodel. She likes her townhouse and, except for a few inconvenient nuisances, she is pretty content.

Beth was at the after mass social and heard about a fellow Parishioner who had an accident in his bedroom. Beth is concerned and wants to make her bedroom safer and more comfortable. Since the bedroom can potentially be an unsafe place without taking some extra precautions, she asked her nephew Caleb to consult the internet for what she should do.bedroom w sleighbed

Caleb found an article that had some good information that he printed out and sat down with Beth to talk about it.

“Beth, it says here that lighting, heat sources and communications are the main things that we should consider first to make your bedroom safer,“ said Caleb.

“First, are there lamps or light switches within reach of the bed? It says here that nighttime falls can be prevented by locating furniture closer to switches or moving lamps closer to the bed.”

“Okay, will you help me move the one over there closer to my bed? I always have to sit up and reach way over to get to the switch.”

“Sure, no problem. We should also install a night-light in here and in your bathroom so it isn’t pitch black for you.”

“Oh, I already have that one that turns off when the light is on in the bathroom but that is a good idea to put one in here, Caleb. I need to get another light that will turn off during the day when it is light on my list for us to pick up next time you take me to Wal-Mart. “

“Beth, I think there are too many cords plugged into this outlet and it could be a potential fire hazard. It is most definitely a tripping hazard. What don’t you need plugged in here?”

Beth stood for a minute and examined the six outlet adapter she had put in soon after she moved in. “Well, I suppose that lamp should be plugged into the other outlet that it is closer to and my electric blanket could go into the other outlet on the other side of the bed. I just liked them all centrally located but maybe you are right about the fire hazard. I had no idea that wasn’t a good thing to do.”

“Beth, this article mentions glare from the lighting possibly causing unsafe conditions. Do you have a lampshade for your lamp here?”

“Oh, yes, somewhere. Try the back bedroom. I just wanted more light so I could read in bed,” said Beth.

“How about if we put a higher wattage bulb in this lamp? If we use a fluorescent bulb, we can use a pretty bright one without exceeding the recommended wattage.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that, will you get me one out of the linen closet?”

“Sure thing, Beth,” pausing briefly, “Beth, the article also mentioned there shouldn’t be anything on top of the electric blanket. Electric blankets should not be tucked-in and the manufacturer’s instructions should be closely followed. We should take that bed spread there.”

“Oh, but I don’t like that awful, boring electric blanket Caleb! Are you sure there can’t be anything on top?” asked Beth in frustration.

“Beth, it says it right on the label. It says caution and everything.”

“Oh, all right, I suppose I could just fold down the bed spread at night. I remember my cousin John once fell asleep with a heating pad on his shoulder and he got the worst burn! I have always tried to be very careful with the electric blanket and not put it on very high. I just bought that electric blanket this fall because it will automatically turn off after a while. I tend to run cold when I’m not moving around much. That’s why I have that portable heater in here too. I have it over here so I can be really careful not to have it near anything that can catch fire.”

“That was a smart move Beth. The article said burns are a large cause of accidental death among seniors. We need to put a phone near the bed too. That way, if there is an emergency, you can at least reach the phone.”

“Oh, Caleb, that is a good idea. I will keep my cell phone there because it is pre-programmed with one touch 911 and it is set so I can hear the ringer and the speaker on the other end of the line without having to change anything. The keys light too so I can see the numbers without my glasses.”

“Beth, are you registered with the reverse 911 system? I can set that up on-line through the city website. Why don’t I do that for you right now?“

Caleb, thank you. Just taking these precautions like keeping the pathway to the bathroom lit with night lights, preventing heat sources from being near bedding and locating my pre-programmed phone next to the bed can make my bedroom safer. I just wish that fellow from church had known about this stuff. That poor, poor man,” sighed Beth, shaking her head in disbelief.


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