How to make a home safe for elderly

Throughout the Western world, populations are ageing. In Australia, 16% of the population – or 4.2 million people – are aged over 65 (according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). Many older Australians say that they desire to “age in place”; that is, to remain in their current accommodation, compared with moving into specialised care, or even moving at all. The main reason given for this, according to research undertaken by Olsberg and Winters in 2005, appears to be the desire to remain linked by proximity to the community and services with which they are familiar.

The biggest problem with this however, is care giving. We know that as we age, our bodies become frailer. We may be more prone to accidents and may also need help performing everyday tasks. The Aged Care Royal Commission predicts that by 2050, Australia will be short of 494,000 aged care workers. This, coupled with rising house prices and a societal shift away from communities to the nuclear family unit mean that the children of ageing Australians are unable to care for their elderly parents. Due to increasing geographic mobility in our country, they may live interstate or even overseas.

The Australian government has recognised this as a pressing issue, and in 2020-21 alone spent $7.7 billion on home care and support at home for the elderly.

So what does this mean for our ageing population who wish to remain in their own homes as they age? How can we make sure that our elderly are safe, if we’re not there to do it ourselves and staffing is a problem?

It’s important to make sure their home is as safe as possible. Here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Get a home security system: Home security systems are a great way to keep an eye on your home, even when you’re not there. Many home security systems now offer features such live streaming, so you can see what’s going on at your house no matter where you are. You can also set up alerts to notify you if something happens, like a window being broken or a door being opened. Of course, the concerns with this are mostly around privacy as most people do not enjoy being filmed 24 hours a day in their own homes.
    An alternative option would be to consider using a device which has been developed specifically to support the elderly age at home. The TEQ-Home is an activity and key routine tracker. It monitors movement around the home via the use of strategically placed motion sensors. It can detect if key routines – such as accessing the medication cabinet – are missed and remotely alert the carer. Similarly, it will detect if there are anomalies in the waking and sleeping times and notify the carer as irregularities in routines can be a precursor to some medical conditions. It can even deliver recurring and one-off reminders; for example a reminder about a doctor’s appointment or a medication reminder. Crucially, the TEQ-Home does not use cameras, respecting the privacy and dignity of the elderly person.
  • Install fall detectors: Falls are one of the leading causes of injury in the elderly population. In fact, in Australia, we have 231,000 hospital admissions every year due to falls. By installing fall detectors in your home, you can be notified if your loved one falls, so you can check on them to ensure their safety. One of the leading falls detection radars is the eazense. It sits in the upper corner of a room and uses non-invasive radar sensors. Offering real-time falls and presence detection, it can detect, record and log activity in a room. If a fall takes place, the caregiver is instantly notified, and help can be sent the second it is needed. It is even sensitive enough to penetrate the walls of an ensuite to include complete coverage of high-risk areas such as the bathroom. Falls from standing, seated and bed are all detected.

By taking some simple precautions, you can help to ensure that your elderly loved ones are safe and well cared for – even when you’re not there.