When Seniors Live at Home, It's Safety First

Seniors in America, by and large, prefer to age in place, at home. In fact, according to AARP, over 80 percent of seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age. However, many seniors need help with ADLs or activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, shopping and medication management. Family caregivers many times find themselves stretched to a breaking point. Between work, caring for their own children, and other day-to-day demands on their time, caring for a senior may be a burden too great to bear.

Assisted living and nursing homes are options when family believes their loved-one can no longer live safely at home alone. But if 24-hour care isn’t needed, the autonomy, independence, and comfort-level of aging at home is preferential for most seniors. The biggest concern for seniors aging in place, at home, and many times alone, is safety.

A safe home is especially important in later years, as seniors begin to experience reduced eyesight, poorer balance, reduced flexibility, etc. AARP has identified the following primary living space concerns:

  • Safety features such as non-slip floor surfaces.
  • Bathroom aides such as grab bars.
  • A personal alert system that allows people to call for help in emergencies.
  • Entrance without steps.
  • Wider doorways.
  • Lever-handled doorknobs.
  • Higher electrical outlets.
  • Lower electrical switches.

In-home caregivers need to be chosen with safety in mind. Adrienne Sierra addresses the home care provider choice in her recent U-T San Diego Healthy Aging column, Feel Safe and Secure with In-Home Care. In it she discusses the precautions and safeguards that go into choosing a professional caregiver and keeping a safe home environment a priority.

Caregiverlist recommends working with a quality home care agency in order to assure that the caregiver has received qualified caregiver training such as the training and certification offered by Caregiverlist Training University’s Basic Caregiver Training. Home care agencies also routinely perform background checks and drug testing prior to employment.

Safety and security should be the number one priority for seniors and their families. With proper precautions, seniors should be able to remain in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes and lead independent lives longer.

Google's Self-Driving Car Could Become Seniors' Chauffeur

It's a wonderful thing to see our beloved elders embrace technology. I've gifted my in-laws with a digital photo frame so they can always see their favorite family pictures. My mother Skypes with her family half a world away. And as our society ages, the gap between the population and the ease and familiarity of use with technology will narrow. Google, popular leader of all things digital, recently posted a YouTube video depicting its experimental self-driving car on the road in California.

What makes this test drive even more remarkable is the driver, Steve Mahan, who said that "95 percent of my vision is gone. I'm well past legally blind."

Google introduced the technology in 2010, hopes is now in talks with Detroit car manufacturers and car insurers in order to gauge the excitement and viability of their self-driving car project. They are looking to get the technology could be ready within the next decade. The car uses laser scanners, heat sensors and satellite navigation to "see" other vehicles. According to Auto World News, at a recent Society of Automotive Engineers conference, Google “sent out a message that an experimental project of self-driving cars for senior citizens and physically challenged can be made possible given a support from global car makers.”

Of course the implications for elderly drivers are far-reaching. This breakthrough would give untold independence to those who can no longer drive due to age or age-related diseases, such as Macular Degeneration or Parkinson’s Disease. Many more hours of development and testing are ahead, but according to Anthony Levandowski, product manager for Google's self-driving car project, the development of the self-driven car is more than cool and convenient, it has a moral imperative. He said it could eliminate a "huge chunk" of the more than 30,000 fatalities that occur in vehicle accidents every year in the U.S. "Every year we don't have this technology built, more people die."

We’ve discussed senior driving safety in previous posts and we always advocate hiring a qualified caregiver to chauffeur and run errands if mom or dad can no longer drive. And until Google’s self-driving technology is commonplace, Caregiverlist provides you with the driving laws by state many states require vision tests more frequently after a certain age and some states do require an in-person driving test.

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Senior Safety: When Should Seniors Stop Driving?

The elderly driver who recently struck Reese Witherspoon with her car will not face criminal charges, but police have ordered her to retake her driver's test to see if she shows signs of diminished driving capabilities.

The 84-year-old Santa Monica resident will most likely need to take a written test, have an eye and hearing examination, and submit to a practical, behind-the-wheel evaluation. She may also need to supply the Department of Motor Vehicles with a list of medication she's taking.

The discussion of revoking driving privileges for the elderly is a sensitive one. Not all elder drivers pose a risk (in fact, some studies show that mature drivers have better driving records than younger drivers,) but once the driver reaches the age of 80 and older, crash rates increase. And of course, as the population ages, it is anticipated that the number of drivers age 85 and over in 2030 will be four times greater than today.

Safety concerns should prevail, for both the senior driver and potential accident victim. And although driving means more independence and autonomy for the elder, aging may indeed affect safe driving abilities. By the same token, however, elderly driving skills vary and uniformly revoking drivers licenses based on age alone is unfair.

AAA offers a Senior Driver Portal to help measure the driving skills and needs of the elderly driver. Caregivers need to evaluate the senior driver's competence and if safety is an issue, steps need to be taken.

Guest blogger and Geriatric Care Manager Charlotte Bishop discusses  "The Talk" about giving up the car keys in her most recent blog post. She gives some solid suggestions about how best to broach this potentially awkward subject with the elders in your life.

If you still find resistance, remember that each state's DMV has its own Senior Drivers License Laws. And if your elder can no longer drive, you can certainly hire a qualified caregiver to chauffeur and run errands if you are unable.

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