When inviting an elderly or frail senior to your home, it would be worth taking some precautions to ensure they can enjoy the occasion to the fullest without mishaps or fear of safety issues.
Planning to Have Frail Senior Guests in Your Home
The aging population is beginning to dictate caution on the part of people who host events at their homes. There is a need to consider handicapping conditions and other issues which could cause safety risks.
It is also important to do some planning in order for the frail person to be able to enjoy the event. When a senior is worried about safety and is uncomfortable, it is difficult to have a good time.
By looking at the guest list, it can be determined which older adults may be frail in some way. It may be worth writing down the issues you are aware of. This could include balance, risk of tripping or falling, difficulty standing, and challenges with stairs or step downs.
Remove throw rugs and work to make walking spaces free of electric cords and other clutter or any short standing objects which could present a fall risk to seniors with a reduced visual field or issues with balance or sudden transitions while walking. It may help to move any statues or other standing items back to allow for more walk-through space.
Do a safety walk-through of the spaces your guests will occupy to be sure they are wheelchair, walker, and/or cane friendly. Imagine yourself with a mobility issue coming to the place for the first time. It also may be handy to have an extra cane available in case it is needed.
Take a look at decorative items, inspecting them for danger. Art which protrudes from the walls can be a problem, especially in a dark hallway to the restroom.
Making Your House Safe for Older Guests Who Are Frail
The most important thing about entertaining is to establish safety for the event involving a frail or elderly guest. Arrange for round-trip transportation if needed or mark a spot in the driveway for this senior. Keep the parking area free of clutter, which could trip a walker who is unsteady. Move yard waste like branches and trash cans since they can precipitate a fall.
Be sure there is adequate lighting, both outside the house and inside including hall areas. Night lights may help in this regard. Use a flashlight to personally escort this guest to and from the house to assure safe access. Sidewalks need to be maintained in order to be visually available to the guest. If possible, avoid the stairs, but if they are part of your plan, keep both banisters and stairs available and uncluttered and turn on lights.
If your house has any steps either on the porch or by the entry inside, pay close attention to being nearby and giving verbal warnings as the frail guest navigates them. You can say, “There’s a step down coming soon” or “Get ready to step up” to provide information before the tripping hazard. The same applies to a sunken living room, as this can be like a minefield to a person with limited vision or balance issues.
Be aware that it is not fair to require guests to love your pets as much as you do. Due to both allergies and risk of falling, dogs and cats need to be kept in another area as a frail person may have trouble adjusting their balance when a pet runs in or out of their intended path. Although these transitions may seem easy to you, they can be both frightening and hazardous for certain elderly people.
Providing for the Comfort of Elderly Visitors While They Are in Your Home
Be sure the doorbell is in working order and respond to it promptly. Don’t rely on yelling, “Come on in” as people with reduced hearing may not hear that. Also, make the doorbell accessible with adequate lighting and not blocking it with plants or objects of art which can make it hard to reach the button without creating a balance challenge. There is nothing more discouraging for a frail guest than having to fish around in the dark to find a doorbell while reaching through plants or other items, running a hand along bricks and other unknown objects in the process.
If possible, install a higher toilet seat and/or grab bars to make the bathroom accessible. These raised toilet seats are affordable and can be found in the local hardware store. Also, keep some type of light on in the bathroom. A lamp or bold night light may help here.
In the sitting area, provide some chairs that are not too low to get out of easily and be sure that they have arms to make getting up easier. If the guests are going to watch a DVD with you, play it with English subtitles even if it is not a foreign movie. Those who have even a slight hearing loss will be grateful. Also, visual learners benefit from and appreciate the extra visual input.
When serving a meal, use a table of standard height with suitable chairs. Many modern tables are bar height with chairs too high that the diners’ feet can’t touch the floor, and there may be no arms to hold onto while steadying oneself. This can be both uncomfortable and frightening for anyone with a balance problem, thus limiting their enjoyment of the occasion.
In making the menu, provide at least one alternative to spicy food as some older adults have tender digestive systems. One option is to provide the spicy portion of the meal as a separate and well-marked dip or sauce to add as desired.
It is possible to entertain frail or elderly guests in your home successfully. Planning ahead helps to senior-proof the spaces for both safety and comfort of the invited guests. It is well worth the effort to make your house safe for your older guests who may be frail. It is far better to provide extra safety measures than to not provide enough, and regret it after an unfortunate incident. Also, comfort of seniors in your home can be vital. Often they will not tell you they are miserable, but you may not have another opportunity to entertain them if they are uncomfortable. Be proactive when you entertain frail or elderly people in your home so they can have the good time you intended!
Interviews in March of 2011 with Dorothy Kennedy about her experiences with a spouse and other friends in similar situations described above.