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Spring Cleaning Can Help Make a Senior’s Home Safer

Ah, spring! That time of year when we take stock of our surroundings and make plans to spruce up our homes and yards. Spring provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate our environment and make some modifications that will make our homes more comfortable and safe.
One effect of being cooped up all winter is that indoor air pollution rises. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, our indoor environment is two to five times more toxic than our outdoor environment and seniors are more susceptible to the negative effects of pollution. To make your – or a loved one’s – home a safer place to live and breathe, the American Lung Association recommends that you “eliminate, then ventilate.” Eliminate the sources of the toxins and then open the windows to bring in fresh air.

  • Where possible, choose wood flooring and throw rugs that can be easily washed. Vacuum carpets with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter.
  • Dust all surfaces and clean air ducts and furnace and air-conditioning filters regularly.
  • Make your own household cleaners. Water and vinegar (or citrus) is a highly effective cleaner with naturally antiseptic properties. Baking soda makes a good scrubbing alternative.
  • Make your own air fresheners from essential oils or by simmering cinnamon, cloves or other herbs. Buy beeswax or soy candles instead of gel or paraffin ones.
  • Buy air-cleaning houseplants such as heartleaf philodendrons, areca palms, Boston ferns, rubber plants, English ivy, weeping fig and the peace lily.
  • Remove your shoes before entering your house to avoid tracking in dirt and other undesirable contaminants – and have guests do the same.

While you’re at it, take some additional steps to make a safer home. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, 90 percent of Americans age 50 and older intend to stay in their own homes, where they can continue to cherish familiar surroundings and family memories. To help ensure the home remains safe as we age, consider the following:

  • Remove hazards and add safety features

Make safety improvements and additions, such as non-slip flooring, grab bars in the bathroom, and night lights throughout the house. Inspect smoke alarms. Remove or secure area rugs.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers a free, online Home Safety Checklist.

  • Add adapted features for accessibility and independence

Enhance accessibility and improve independence with adaptive features such as easy-grip knobs and pulls in kitchen, wheelchair or walker access, and touch light switches. If necessary, rearrange the house for one-story living.

  • Make home repairs for comfort and convenience

Make sure roof, gutters, stairs and railings are in good repair. Inspect and upgrade plumbing, electrical, heat and air conditioning systems if necessary. Install energy efficient features such as weather stripping and insulation.
And, finally, clean out your medicine cabinet. If you’re like most people, there’s lots there that can be tossed – like that five-year-old jar of “miracle” anti-aging cream or razors you no longer use. Additionally, getting rid of prescription and over-the-counter medications that have long since expired can keep your family safer.

Categories: Geriatric Care

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