“For Aging In Place, It Could Be The Small Stuff That Makes A Difference”

Simple mistakes happen – easy things that could have been avoided had we taken a little more care or watched what we were doing more closely. Often, it’s not a matter of major proportions but of little details. Sometimes the littlest things will trip us up – things like trying to back out of a parking place with the transmission in drive and accidentally moving forward (hopefully not striking anything in the process). The opposite happens also – backing up when we meant to move forward. How about opening the car door into another vehicle when we didn’t notice it (or forgot to look) moving alongside us? Most of us have done something like this in the past.

Sometimes, we miss seeing an open cabinet or closet door and walk into the end of it. Maybe, we’ll attempt to place something on the counter and misjudge the distance – missing the counter and having the item fall to the floor or something next to it, or it will drop from a small height to rest on the counter (and hopefully not break or spill, depending on what it is).

Ever wear mismatching socks (a navy and black, for instance), or two shoes that are close enough in appearance to be mistaken in a hurry but clearly not a match? Maybe we forgot to put on an accessory like a belt or piece of jewelry – not a big deal but important still.

Have we ever baked cookies or prepared a recipe from scratch and confused a small “t” (teaspoon) for a capital ‘t” (tablespoon) or couldn’t tell which was meant? What’s the difference? In this case, using a teaspoon for a tablespoon results in one-third of the desired ingredients (it would be 3 times more than we needed if the mistake was in the other direction). As long as we don’t confuse the amounts of salt and sugar in a recipe or baking powder and baking soda, we should be OK.

The point is that there are so many little things that we do or that we almost do that could be embarrassing if not injurious to us. Most of the time we recover without incident, but this isn’t always true.

How do our experiences translate into creating effective solutions for our aging in place clients? We just take our knowledge base as being representative – more or less – or what people generally experience in life and make adjustments for them. We provide helps for our clients so that little mistakes, when they happen in their home, are less likely to be dangerous or consequential. We proactively create helps for our clients to lessen difficulties in navigating and using their home. We help to make it friendlier for them.

Beginning with the entry into the home, a narrow doorway presents challenges of getting through it easily and safely. A threshold that rises much above the flooring can create a tripping issue. Inadequate lighting in the foyer or entry can create shadows or make it harder to distinguish items that may be in the pathway (whether they were there earlier or not).

From the garage (if that is the way that is used for entry into the home normally or just occasionally), doing what we can to reduce or eliminate the height of the step or the number of steps into the home will reduce the potential for tripping on them or slipping while using them – especially when vision is partially blocked or balance is affected by carrying items.

In the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room where there are cabinets, the hardware that are on those doors and drawers needs to be easy to grasp and control, By eliminating handles that are too small or require too much effort to use, this will lessen the possibility that a person’s hand could slip off and cause discomfort to the user. Because of their design, location, and orientation to the space, if the doors or drawers open into the floor space (or appliance doors as well) in a significant way, they could create the potential for someone to walk into them if they aren’t closed immediately. Lighter weight materials, rounded corners, and colors that create a reasonable amount of contrast are changes that can be made to make the units safer to use and less dangerous when someone does walk into them.

There are many other areas – especially in the bathroom – where we can make little changes (safety grab bars near the entrance to the tub or shower, treating the floors to lessen slipperiness, and increasing the amount of light, for starters). The bedroom has its share of slips and falls – often from items that are located too high or not visible due to inadequate lighting.

None of these improvements by itself is that significant or pricey. Collectively, the little things can add up to creating a much safer home for our clients.

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