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Geriatric Comfort, Safety At Home

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

The task of preparing the home environment when an older loved one with multiple chronic conditions is being discharged from a rehabilitation center or nursing home may seem overwhelming.  Yet there are some steps to take that can bring order and grounding to a complex and emotional situation.  The first step is to determine the type of care and support that will ensure safety, comfort, dignity and the most independence possible.  For a geriatric care manager, go to

The following suggestions described by Family and Consumer Sciences Agrilife at Texas A&M University are not a substitute for a professional assessment.  However, as an informed health care consumer, these tips can be useful:


Open flames and burners: Use a microwave, hot plate, electric toaster oven and coffeemaker.  A crock pot with an automatic turnoff is useful.  Also consider the Meals on Wheels service.

Hard to open refrigerator: Have one with a foot lever.

Reaching items: Place everyday items within easy reach; adjust the height of counters, cupboards and drawers.  Use a lazy Susan.

Carrying items: Use a cart or walker basket, or slide items across a counter.  Sit on a stool and eat at a counter.

Difficulty seeing: Use contrasting colors for china, place mats and napkins.


Difficult to reach: Use a cordless phone and tell friends to give you 10 rings to answer.   Consider using a headset cordless phone.  Also, calls can be answered by an answering machine.  Just return the call.

Difficulty hearing the ring: Use volume control, blinking lights or vibration.

Difficulty holding the receiver: Use a headset, speakerphone or adapted handles.
Difficulty dialing numbers: Program preset numbers, use a phone with large buttons and numbers or use voice-activated dialing.


Can’t climb or go down: Install a lift, elevator or stair glide.  Use a permanent, portable or removable ramp.  In an emergency, practice bumping on one’s “posterior” both and up and down the stairs.

No handrails: Install on at least one side; make sure the installation is stable.

Cannot use a walker on the stairs: Have a second walker or wheelchair at the top or bottom of the stairs.


Difficulty reading labels: Ask the pharmacist for large print on prescription labels, use a magnifying glass and have adequate lighting.

Memory loss: Use automatic pills dispensers; organize medications in envelopes with the time and date.


Cannot hear the television: Use a personal listening device with an amplifier.  Select programs with closed captions.

Remote is complicated: Use a remote with large buttons, a voice activated remote control or a clapper, a devise activated by sound that will turn on or off any appliance.

Cannot see to shuffle cards: Use a deck of cards with large print and an automatic shuffler.

Cannot read small print: Use a magnifying glass, a large print projector or a scanner.

Glare on reading material: Place the light source to the left or right of the material, avoid glossy paper in reading materials and read from black ink rather than blue ink or pencil.

Emerging technologies are increasing opportunities for older adults to remain independent and safe in their homes, stay connected to their families and be monitored by medical professionals.

The Center for Aging Services Technology  is leading the charge to expedite these technologies to transform the experience of aging.  CAST is an international coalition of more than 400 technology companies, aging-services organizations, businesses, research universities and government representatives.

Here is a sample of their vision and realities:   A device that turns off stove burners left idle; one that monitors water temperatures to prevent scalding; a talking medicine cabinet with pill containers that speak to you if you take the wrong pill, or the right pill at the wrong time.

And then there is a bed that is programmed according to the number of times you turn over in a night.  If it is less than that number, a family member is notified.

For more on this developing technology, go to

© Helen Dennis 2010, all rights reserved.

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Time: June 13, 2009, 6:00 pm

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