Given the choice, most of us would prefer to stay independent well into our golden years. We would also choose to live in our own homes for as long as we could. But problems that come with age or having a chronic disease can make it hard to do either.
If you’re concerned about how independent you (or someone you care about) can remain, answer the three questions discussed below. Your answers can serve as a guide.
Falls can be a problem for anyone. They can be a special problem for older people and people with conditions such as osteoporosis. See the box below for a list of ways to reduce the chance of falling.
Hot weather can be dangerous for older people and people with chronic lung problems. Make sure that at least one room is air-conditioned.
Is there enough heat for cold weather? Have someone check the furnace to be sure it’s safe and works properly. Consider adding insulation to conserve heat. If paying for heat is a hardship, check with the gas or electric company about getting help.
Dark areas can obscure vision and make a home unsafe. Is there enough light, especially in hallways and on the stairs? Good outside lighting can protect against crime.
Make your home safe from fire. Put in smoke detectors and be sure they work. Have someone do a fire safety check to remove hazards.
For a free Older Consumers Safety Checklist, call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772 or visit their Web site at www.cpsc.gov.
A recent study showed that a network of helpers can keep people independent longer. Those who have friends and family willing to help regularly with chores and care do best. Some people arrange to share their home with someone in exchange for help.
Are emergency phone numbers kept by your phone? Does everyone in the house know how to call for help? Is there a way to call for help or will someone check on you in case you fall and can’t reach the phone?
You can also ask your local Agency on Aging about free or low-cost services to help with meals and household chores. The number is in the government listing in your phone book. Or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 for information.
Getting to the doctor or even to the store can be a problem. Is there someone who can drive you where you need to be if you can’t drive yourself? Most communities have transportation services for seniors. Call the Eldercare Locator to find out whom you should call in your town.