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Staying at home for longer

Last Updated at June 16th 2021
Your home environment should always make you feel safe and comfortable, and having a place that you enjoy living can be really important to your mental wellbeing. 

Key points:

  • Talk to your friends and family to create a plan to live at home for longer

  • Make modifications to your home to improve safety and accessibility

  • Be prepared for unexpected emergencies, like sickness, falls or catastrophic weather

Older woman receiving help at home
Receiving help at home can actually keep you at home for longer! [Source: Shutterstock]

However, when your physical or cognitive abilities are impacted by health or age, it can make living at home either more difficult or complicated.

Luckily, there are a lot of different ways that can assist you in staying home for longer and living your best life.

Developing support networks

Besides services and providers being available to assist you with living at home, there is another strong support network that provides good foundations as well.

Your friends, family, and health professionals play a really important role in understanding your needs and assisting you in your home as best they can.

For most older people, family, friends and neighbours are the first place they look when they need extra help.

Other people that can help with your personal situation include the bank, chemist, or GP, who may be able to tailor their service delivery to meet your needs. For example, the chemist can have your medication delivered or your doctor may be able to do home visits.

Making your home safe

Taking the time to make your home safe and accessible for you is the best way to safety-proof yourself from falls or prevent unexpected emergencies.

Having a safe home environment also means you are more likely to be able to live in your home for longer.

While it can be hard to admit you need help or accept support from others, if you plan ahead and take appropriate steps to put measures in place, you will be in a better position to stay at home.

There are several ways you can improve the functionality and accessibility in and around your home, which can make a small or big difference with doing everyday tasks.

Some kitchen modifications to your house could include:

  • Organising your cupboards so everything inside is within reach

  • Labelling food items and storing them properly

  • Have appliances with easy instructions or simple push button starts

  • Invest in appliances that are modified for easy use

  • Controls that manage the water temperature to reduce burn risks

Other household safety measures could include:

  • Labelling medication properly and storing it in an accessible, convenient and visible place

  • Reorganise furniture in a way that makes clear pathways and creates enough space to get around your home safely

  • Making sure low lit areas have light bulbs installed

  • Using bright light bulbs around the home for optimal visibility

  • Installing grab bars, handrails or non-slip mats in slippery areas, like the bathroom, laundry, toilet or kitchen

  • If you have issues standing, utilise a chair in the shower and install a hand-held shower head

  • Upgrade your locks on doors if they are old

  • Install safety screens on doors and windows for better security and airflow

Consult with your doctor or physiotherapist about these modifications before getting them installed as some of these modifications could impact your mobility in the long term if you start utilising them too early.

Small changes around the home can make all the difference to lowering the risk of accidents and make your home so much more functional.

Keep in mind, anything lying on the ground can also result in injury. A clean home with little to no clutter can help in not only adding to a comfortable home environment, but also make it safer.

Growing technology for the home

Utilising technology at home is becoming more and more commonplace for older people, as it makes life easier and safer when living at home.

Some of these gadgets include personal alert systems, safety alarms, or in home monitoring systems. They can detect falls, changes in everyday patterns or call for help in an emergency.

A personal alarm can give peace of mind and a sense of security to the wearer. Similarly, monitoring hubs are becoming more commonly used by home care providers and families. This technology has been seen as a way to give independence and privacy to an older person with dementia or other mobility issues without being invasive or requiring the person to move into aged care.

Smartwatches are another type of technology that is becoming a common wearable item for older Australians, as they provide a range of safety functions and health tracking options. You can learn more about smartwatches in our information piece about staying mobile and independent.

Additionally, general technology has been made to make life easier for everyone, but can be incredibly beneficial to older people.

Getting a home safety assessment

If you know your home is not as safe as it could be but are unsure where to start making improvements, you can get an expert in to identify the problem areas you need to fix.

A healthcare professional, like an occupational therapist or registered nurse, can provide a home safety assessment to help in these areas.

You can also utilise the resources on the Home Falls and Accidents Screening Tool (HomeFAST) website which offers information to professionals and the public around home assessments. You can even undertake a self assessment of your home using the resources on the website.

Preparing for emergencies

While an emergency might not be at the top of mind, it can be vital to prepare for unexpected emergencies. It could be a sudden illness or an unexpected event, like catastrophic weather or a fall.

Having an emergency kit or bag ready to go, or easily put together, can be helpful when you need to leave in a hurry. It should include:

  • Contact list of family members, health professionals and emergency numbers

  • Information about your medication and brief overview of medical history

  • Overnight clothes and toiletries

  • For disasters, it can be helpful to have water, food, a flashlight and first aid kit

In an emergency in your area, be aware of the evacuation route you need to take or the nearest local emergency point. For instance, there are 'bushfire last resort refuges' in each State and Territory, normally local football ovals or community centres.

Talk with your family and friends beforehand in regards to your emergency plan, including if you want to meet at an evacuation point in your area. 

When putting your emergency plan together, remember that your emergency situation will be different to others.

Stranger danger

While there can be hazards in the home, it is also important to remember that there can be dangers outside of the home, specifically from people looking to prey on the good nature of older Australians.

Scams are becoming a bigger problem every day with people attempting to get money or information online, via email or over the phone.

You need to be wary and vigilant with every phone call, email you receive or website you visit, especially if they are asking for your personal information or bank details.

It's best to contact the organisation directly before providing any personal information or bank account details. You can also report the scams to the businesses so they can warn their other clients.

Sometimes, strangers will ring your doorbell. In most cases, it will likely be a postman, neighbour or organisation selling their services, however, you should always keep an eye out for someone who may be dangerous.

If you still feel uncomfortable opening the door, just don't answer it, they should go away. And if you ever feel threatened or in danger, call the police straight away.

How have you secured your home so you can live there for as long as possible? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

How to maintain and improve mobility and reduce falls
Keep mobile and stay independent
When should I consider help at home?

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