Safety / Housing Article:

Home repair programs, fall prevention tips help seniors live safely in their own homes

As people age, they prefer to continue living independently in their own homes. Balancing this desire with the everyday difficulties of growing older can often be challenging.

The Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of 30 not-for-profit and public organizations dedicated to the well being of older adults, offers these tips to help seniors live safely in their own homes.

First, investigate community resources that may help you remain independent. Many agencies offer low-cost or no-cost services such as home repair, chores, transportation, companionship and in-home care.

For example, senior service organizations in the Puget Sound area provide minor home repairs to eligible residents for such needs as broken windows, minor plumbing problems or carpentry needs.

If your home is in need of more serious repair, other options are available. For example, King County offers no-interest loans for up to $20,000 for major mechanical and structural repairs, as well for certain updates and improvements. (These loans are due and payable upon sale or transfer of the property.) In some cases, assis-tance is free if the repair is can resolve a life-threatening emergency and can be accomplished for less than $3,000.

King County also has free financial assistance available for low-income disabled tenants in need of home access modifications. Things like wheelchair ramps, roll-in showers and grab bars are examples of the types of modifications eligible under this program.

You can also increase the likelihood of being able to stay in your own home by taking steps to prevent falls. One out of every three people who are 65 years of age or older fall at least once every year, and most of those falls occur in the home. These falls can lead to serious injuries that often keep people from being able to return to their homes after hospitalization.

To help prevent falls:

  • Keep stairways clear of objects and make sure the carpet is firmly secured to the steps. Don't wear socks on stairs, and always use the handrail.
  • Keep lamp and phone cords out of open areas on the floor. Keep large rugs flat by tacking down edges with double-sided tape, and eliminate small throw rugs that may slip. Don't let newspapers or magazines collect on the floor.
  • Keep large rugs flat by tacking down edges with double-sided tape, and eliminate small throw rugs that may slip.
  • Don't let newspapers or magazines collect on the floor.
  • Line the bottom of your tub with non-skid mats or adhesive strips. Install and use wall grab bars around the toilet and tub area.
  • Keep stairways, halls and walkways well lighted and install nightlights.
  • Wear low-heeled, lightweight, non-skid and well-fitting shoes.
  • If you are prone to falling, ask a neighbor, friend or relative to check in with you daily. Wearable emergency alert monitors are available that allow you to call 911 with the push of a button.
  • Finally, check with your county's health department or emergency medical services department to see if they offer free home inspections, or call 1-844-348-KING and ask for information. Experienced professionals are often available to go into your home and assess the conditions that may lead to a fall.

To find out more about fall prevention, home repair or other resources that can help seniors remain independent - or for answers to any other questions that older adults and their caregivers may have - call the Healthy Aging Partnership's toll-free, confidential information and assistance line at 1-844-348-KING (1-844-348-5464) or visit the Web site at www.4elders.org. HAP is generously supported by HAP partner agencies, Puget Sound Energy and the Comprehensive Health Education Foundation.