New Year’s Safety Resolutions for Seniors

Dr. Mirtha Whaley and Dr. Dennis McCarthy from Nova Southeastern University join us with some new year’s safety resolutions for seniors in the home and on the road. Occupational Therapy is a health profession that is concerned with all of the things we do in a day, a week, a lifetime, to take care of ourselves, have leisure pursuits, honor our commitment to family and our paid employment. Self-maintenance, instrumental activities, committed and contracted occupations are all addressed by OT as the natural process of aging occurs, or something external, like a physical injury, natural disaster, migration, war—impact our occupations.

  • As Baby Boomers age, it becomes increasingly important to them to maintain independence, routine and activities that enrich quality of life. Continue to live in their own homes.
  • First, some basics—
  • make sure to have an up-to-date eye exam,
  • go over all your medications with your doctor
  • make sure shut-in seniors are visited at least once a day with nutritious meal
  • keep moving, remain flexible
  • exercise daily, with attention to strengthening thigh muscles which aids in fall prevention.
  • The stronger you are, the less likely you are to fall
  • Another important tip: Hydrate!  People don’t drink enough fluids and dehydration causes confusion and falls
  • Most falls happen in the kitchen and bathroom, and there are various things we can do to address safety in those specific areas, including bathroom shower transfer bench, safety bars, tub seat etc.
  • Of course, wipe up all spills immediately
  • Assess room arrangements to make sure spaces are maximized for safety
  • Rearrange so that things you use frequently are easily accessible
  • To improve home safety, start by removing clutter
  • Remove electrical cords and any other obstacles from pathways
  • If you use throw rugs, secure them to the floor with double-sided tape
  • Have proper and adequate lighting
  • Create a lighted nighttime path through your home; the senior eye adjusts to an overhead light very slowly
  • Illuminate stairways bottom an top
  • Make sure steps have hand rails.
  • Visibility of driving environment often impeded for seniors. Adjusting their seats high enough maximizes view of driving environment; many seniors don’t know how to adjust the seat or make it high enough.  One reason is that when seniors first drove the only way to adjust the bench seats was backward and forward, and now when seniors purchase cars no one from the dealership shows them.
  • Proper distance of the senior driver from steering wheel/airbag is vital.  When an airbag deploys properly, the person goes into the airbag.  If that person is less than 10 – 12 inches away, the airbag goes into the driver.  Also, a  surprising number of people have steering wheel pointed at face, not chest
  • Mirror adjustment. When seniors began driving, cars were equipped with a rear view mirror and sometimes a driver side mirror.  Today, easily adjustable side mirrors cover blind spots to the driver’s left and right, but many people don’t know how to adjust them properly.  Using the rear mirror only, seniors are at risk for blind spots, shoulder and neck strain and pain and more.
  • Another advantage is showing seniors how to reduce nighttime glare from cars behind by making a small adjustment.
  • Often seniors need assistance with properly adjusting seat belts so that they are worn correctly.  Many seniors tend to wear them too high or behind them.

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