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This topic for me hits home perhaps closer than any I written for far. I am 50 and my parents are 71 and 72. They are Baby Boomers. The American Baby Boomers are aging, as the oldest of those born in the period between 1946 and 1964 begin to turn 72. This generation is the largest living generation with an estimated 74.1 million Boomers in 2016, according to Pew Research. As this group of Americans age, they begin to require assistance with day-to-day activities and often can no longer live alone.
Pew Research also reports that caregivers for this generation tend to be the child of the aging adult with 44 percent of caregivers providing help for their parents. Twenty-two percent of individuals care for another relative, while the remaining percent of caregivers assist someone else, such as a grandparent, spouse, friend, or neighbor.
If you share the role of caregiver with the 34.2 million Americans who provide unpaid care to an aging adult, then you may be struggling with creating a safe and comfortable sleeping environment in your home. This is an especially troubling issue for caregivers of those who may wander at night, such as the 44 percent of older adults with insomnia or the ten percent with dementia.
When preparing sleeping quarters for an aging adult, consider these helpful tips:
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Clear the room of unnecessary furniture and decorations which may inhibit the use of a walker or wheelchair.
Consider heavy duty mattresses that offer good seat edge support to help stabilization when entering and exiting the bed.
Replace unstable bed frames especially those with wheels that can move from beneath unstable parents. Consider solid heavy duty bed frames with extra support and safe secure feet as apposed to unstable wheels that can role out of position.
Assess the height of the closet rod, hooks, and shelving to be sure that it is easily accessible. Lower shelving and hooks so that they can be reached without struggle or assistance.
Ensure that the floor is clear of tripping hazards, such as cords, decor, or even table legs that might stick out unnecessarily into walking paths. Remove area rugs, ottomans, and other furniture that is low to the ground. Ensure that bathroom mats are skid-resistant or secured with non-slip backing.
Place a nightlight near the bed, as well as in the hallway and bathroom. Place a small bedside lamp on the nightstand that lights the room enough for a trip to the restroom without filling the room with a glaring, bright light. Remember that your house guest may not be familiar with his or her new room or the layout of your home. Clear the area of tripping hazards and keep it adequately lit.
Consider using small lamps that illuminate with a touch, rather than a small knob or switch, which may be difficult for older hands to operate. Also, keep a flashlight in the nightstand drawer in case of a power outage.
While today’s adults and teens are connected constantly through the use of mobile phones, elderly Americans are not as comfortable with this modern technology. Instead, get a landline phone installed with a line in the bedroom for easy access during emergencies. Keep a written list of emergency contact numbers so that your parent can feel safe and protected at all times with the ability to reach out to police, fire, and nearby relatives.
Remember that stairs can be a falling hazard for an elderly individual. If possible, keep your parents on the same floor as the bathroom to avoid the need to traverse the stairs in the middle of the night.
Be sure that handrails on the stairs are sturdy and installed securely. Consider installing handlebars in halls frequented by your parents to allow an easy grip to steady themselves or catch their balance if necessary.
Bringing your parent – or other relative or friend – into your home can be a very rewarding experience. In fact, according to Pew Research, 88 percent of caregivers report that caring for aging parents is rewarding and only one-third of those who have helped an aging parent feel that it caused them stress.
There are moderate to low cost changes that can be made to keep your parents safe and secure from falls and bedroom accidents. Take the time to prepare your home and the room that your parents will sleep in so that both of you feel comfortable with the situation. Following the above tips will bring you peace of mind knowing that you have created a space that offers not only a homey atmosphere but also a safe area to sleep.