Services for Elders and Their Families
when miles or circumstances prevent you from being there.
Secure homes are safe homes
In the last issue, I discussed home safety. Keeping elders safe inside their own homes should be a high priority. In this issue, we will explore home security. As crime increases in all areas, it is an important issue that should be carefully considered.
Most elders live independently. Many are the victims of demographic changes that have resulted in the decline of their neighborhoods: aging homes and unsafe areas.
But crime is everywhere.
Whether your elder lives in a gated community or an older neighborhood,
security should be a concern. Although no one is guaranteed safety, this
article addresses environmental safety: ways to deter a criminal from
gaining access to your elder’s home or possessions.
If there is not a formal
organized neighborhood watch, and you or your elder are unable to start
one, help your elder develop an informal watch. Find a neighbor or two
willing to watch out for each other. They might telephone each other every
morning , or at specified times. You, the adult child, can continue to
call each day, but the neighbor is nearby and will offer the elder
additional outside interaction if he is homebound.
First, designate the living space. Is it meant to be lived in? Can an office be designated as a living area? Can that garage be turned into a separate bedroom and bath?
Next, define the designated space. Who will use the area- an elder, a disabled child, the caregiver?
Finally, design the space.
If the garage is to be converted to a bed and bath, can it be designed to
be safe? Does it have ample electrical outlets? Is it secure? Is the
plumbing in place?
Start by looking at the perimeter of the property. Note the street lighting or lack thereof. Study the traffic patterns. Examine sidewalks and steps approaching the elder’s house for cracks that could trip them. Examine trees for low hanging limbs that may block security lights. Consider anything that may pose a safety hazard. Talk to neighbors about their safety concerns.
For the exterior, take a closer look at windows and doors. Trees or shrubs should not block the view of a window. A thief can hide in the bushes and surprise anyone approaching the front door. Examine door and window locks. Ensure that the locks work correctly. Each first floor window should have a lock. If there is a second story, look for trees that would allow someone to gain entry into the house by climbing them and entering through the window. If so, secure the window or remove the branch.
The interior survey will take the most time. Start with lighting. Timers fool thieves by leading them to think someone is home when a person is away. Timers can help elders away from home at night, too; they return to a well lit home.
Ensure all windows and doors close and lock properly. Install dead bolts on exterior doors; if the elder is moving to a new residence, be sure to change existing dead bolt locks. Sliding glass doors should have two locks, a Charley bar, a bar positioned across the bottom of the stationary door, and a standard lock. Also, add a screw along the top of the door to prevent the sliding door from being lifted from its frame. Don’t position locks near glass panes, as the glass can be broken and a thief can reach through the broken glass to open the lock.
Sometimes in working with caregivers of elders, the adult children will ask how to make their parents move to a safer area or facility. The caregivers find this especially difficult if the elder does indeed live in a neighborhood that has become more urban and dangerous. I have always felt that ultimately , it should be the elder’s decision to move.
Moving is difficult and
stressful, even under the best circumstances, and a move that is forced or
coerced is even more painful. If the elder is mentally competent to make
his own decisions, then the best service the family can offer, is to
assist the elder in living as safely as possible wherever he wants to
live. When a caregiver takes this stance, when the time is right, the
elder feels much safer taking steps towards a move.