Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Pittsburgh

Small Changes Can Help You Live Independently

Let’s face it: most houses and apartments were built for the average buyer. As we age our needs change, but our homes have not. A few simple additions or changes to your home can increase your comfort and safety immediately and let you stay in the home you love.

Bathrooms are one of the most dangerous areas in the home. Having a grab bar along the shower wall helps prevent falls when entering and exiting the tub. In addition, a grab bar along a wall can assist getting on and off the toilet. The other common option is a toilet surround with handles on both sides. Having a non-skid mat in front of the tub and sink prevents slipping on wet floors.

In the kitchen, cabinets can be rearranged so that items used most are within reach. Having a small step stool with a high back railing is essential. The back rail should be above the knees and easy to hold onto at all times. If you have trouble opening the refrigerator, tying a dishtowel around the handle will give you an easy place to grab and pull. Every kitchen should be equipped with a smoke detector and a fire extinguisher that is specifically rated for kitchens and grease fires.

Other common fall areas are stairwells. Having solid handrails to hold onto is necessary and making sure they extend from the top step to the bottom step is key. Having hand rails on both sides provides maximum safety. Keep all steps and floors clutter free to prevent tripping.

Modern technology has also given us a few advantages. The major one is the medical alarm. When buying a medical alarm, consider your lifestyle and how much you travel away from home alone. If you travel alone, a new device can transmit a distress signal through satellite technology. It can pinpoint your location within a couple of feet anywhere in the world.

The most common medical alarms work in and around your home. The owner wears a waterproof pendant, normally around the neck, with an emergency call and a stop button on them. When the call button is pushed, the alarm calls the monitor center using the home phone line. An operator pushes a button to listen into the home and determines the emergency type. The operator has information on the owner and calls the Emergency Service provided in their file. These systems are rented and may or may not have an installation charge. All have a monthly fee for the system and monitoring. If you decide to purchase one of these systems, you want to ask about the monitoring center, average time it takes them to answer the distress call, how long the average operator has worked for them, and their instructed course of action. These systems have been around for many years and have saved countless lives.

A newer system on the market does not use a monitoring center. When the call button is pushed, it dials a series of phone numbers pre-programmed into the base console, normally friends and loved ones. These systems can call cell phones or any other number that a regular phone can call. When the “friend” answers the call, they can listen into the home and determine the best course of action. These systems must be purchased like you would an answering machine or any other electrical product. Because there is no monitoring center, you have no monthly fee.

Whether you live in an apartment or house, medical emergencies happen. With a few simple changes, your home will be safer and more comfortable for today and tomorrow.

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