Keeping Your Elderly Parents Safe at Home

Keys in the door

Elderly parents living on their own in a traditional home are usually a safety concern for the family. As they age, they are less likely to notice safety issues that gradually sneak up on them. Here are some key issues to watch for and suggestions on how to address them.

Personal safety gets much more attention during a downsizing project since you are already in a review mindset, watching for potential areas of improvement as you plan the move. The three most important categories are Fire, Falls and Security.


Fire FightersSmoke and CO2 detectors:
The first check I made last year as I was helping an elderly lady get ready to downsize was to check for fire/smoke alarms. Here’s what turned up: one smoke detector outside her bedroom door with no battery. An expired second smoke detector was located in the front hall with a working battery. However, the manufacturing date of the detector was in excess of 10 years. (Ion detectors age over time and may not function correctly after 10 years.) There was no CO2 detector in place. I installed a portable one on the main level for her. It had to be relocated since she would get up during the night to go to the washroom and inadvertently knock the detector out of the A/C outlet as she walked by it.

If your parents are still able to safely use a stove, keep fabric items away from the stove area, baking gloves on a hook right next to the stove are a “no-no”. If they are no longer able to prepare meals safely, consider your local “Meals on Wheels” for delivering meals to them.

Watch for overloaded or improper extension cords. If your parents in an older home, check to see if any area near water (bathroom, kitchen, laundry room) has GFI (Ground-Fault-Interrupt) outlets to prevent electrical shocks.


Falls are a major health risk for elderly. Here the main areas to check when helping your parents avoid falls.

Falling down the stairsStairs:
Install non-slip stair runners. If your parents have some issues with their eyesight, have them count the number of stairs on each staircase so they know exactly how many steps to take when they go from one area of the home to another.

Install handle grips, a non-slip surface coating, stable racks for personal care items, and a portable “shower chair”

Loose floor mats and scatter rugs may cut down on floor noise but they present a trip hazard for the elderly. Eliminate them, if possible.

Lighting: Install bright lights for better visibility. Use contrasting colour switch plates. (White-on-white does not work for someone with declining eyesight.) Install motion-detector lights where practical

Move items from upper shelves to lower ones within reach. Minimize trips to the basement by moving items to the main floor


Door handle and lockLocks:
Install deadbolt locks on all doors.  Watch for measurements if you plan to do this yourself. Some older doors use an odd placement for the original lock and can’t be used with modern deadbolt locks. Also, many seniors with arthritis can’t easily open doors with round handles. Use straight handles instead.

Replace older, glass-top doors with secure, solid door and security glass.

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Quill pen

Unless otherwise credited, all posts are happily authored with a quill pen …
Paul Ferri, Broker, ASA (Accredited Senior Agent)
RE/MAX Unique Inc. Brokerage*, Toronto, Canada
*Each office independently owned and operated.

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