Occupational therapist Jonathan Chiu displays sock aid and long handle shoe horn.
Occupational therapist Jonathan Chiu displays sock aid and long handle shoe horn.

Occupational therapist Jonathan Chiu offers 5 tips for making homes safer for seniors

Occupational Therapist (OT) Jonathan Chiu has a passion for geriatrics, inspired by his grandma.

“She still lives with me today,” says Jonathan. “She’s in her 90s and has always been my biggest inspiration.”

OT is a client-centred profession with a goal to maximize people’s independence and enable them to continue taking part in activities that are important to them.

“Occupational therapists try to do what is meaningful for patients by looking at each situation in a holistic way, and taking into account a person’s physical, cognitive and emotional needs,” he says.

Health concerns like arthritis and respiratory issues, commonly experienced by seniors, can make tasks more difficult, increase the risk of falls and reduce a person’s energy to enjoy the activities they find most meaningful.

“Although most seniors feel comfortable in their own environment, an OT can almost always brainstorm strategies or tools to make a home safer,” says Jonathan.

"It’s always better to take a more proactive approach, especially when it comes to falls, which can often drastically decrease an individual’s quality of life and their independence.”

If you or a loved one would benefit from a safer living environment, Jonathan has some tips for you.

Making these simple changes can really help minimize injuries and enable seniors to live their life to the fullest.

1. Bathroom safety:   

“The most important area where change can really help conserve energy and avoid falls,” Jonathan suggests: 

  • Non-slip mats to line the tub or shower
  • A tub-transfer bench to enter/exit the bathtub
  • A bath chair (if lengthy standing is difficult)
  • Properly installed grab bars
  • Raised toilet seats

2. Conserving energy: 

  • Don’t do multiple heavy or tiring tasks in one day; plan ahead and space them out.
  • Sit down for tasks like putting on or taking off shoes or preparing a meal, whenever possible. Take lots of breaks between activities/chores.
  • Use adaptive devices like sock aids and long handle shoe horns to reduce the need to bend over

3. Bedroom safety:

  • Get a bedrail or floor-to-ceiling pole to help with getting out of bed
  • Make sure the bed is a safe height, i.e. not too high
  • Have a commode (or urinal) near the bed if there is frequent need to use the washroom during the night

4. Kitchen safety:

  • Use appliances with an automatic shut-off
  • Put heavier items in lower cupboards and lighter items in higher

5. Medication safety:

  • Use blister packs to help manage medications
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