Older adults are living independently at home these days, so keeping them safe is a major concern. Some of the most common accidents involving seniors are falls, burns, and poisonings. Other concerns are identity theft and criminals who target the elderly.
Emergency room doctors in North America recommend adult children take one day a year to perform a safety check of their senior parents’ homes. Unfortunately, less than half of adult children do this.
Here is a list of safety tips to help you identify and remedy hazards in a senior’s home.
Keep a list of emergency numbers by each phone. The print should be large enough for a senior to read easily. You can also attach a copy of the list to the refrigerator with a magnet.
- Police and Fire Emergency: 911
- Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
- Phone number of a family member or friend to call if there’s an emergency
- Doctor’s phone number
Falls are a serious problem for older people. One in three seniors fall each year, and falls are the primary cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people 65 and over. Falls can cause hip fractures, broken bones, and head injuries.
Fortunately, most falls can be prevented. Here are some steps to take to help the senior in your life keep from falling:
- Ask your parent or grandparent if they have any concerns about falling. If they do, have their risk of falling assessed by a healthcare provider.
- Make sure your older loved one has had a recent eye exam. If they wear glasses, check to see that the prescription is current and they are using their glasses. Glasses that change the tint and get dark in the sun can be dangerous when going directly from the sun into a dark room. Bifocals can be a problem when going up or down stairs.
- Seniors who hold onto walls or furniture while walking, or who find it difficult to get out of a chair should be examined by a physical therapist, who may help with exercises for strength, balance, and gait. The physical therapist may recommend using a walker or a cane and provide advice on their proper use.
- Seniors should carry a cordless phone or a mobile phone, making it unnecessary to run to answer a ringing phone in another part of the house.
- Non-slip footwear should be worn to prevent falls on smooth floors.
- In the event a fall occurs, a low-pile carpet can cushion the fall, potentially preventing or lessening any injury.
Since seniors are often targeted by criminals, home security is important. In addition to reducing the chances they can become victims, knowing your senior loved one is safe will give you peace of mind. These tips will help keep the home secure.
- Keeping the doors locked is a simple way to ensure that residents and their belongings are safe.
- Patio doors should be secured. Locked sliding doors can be pried open by a determined criminal. Specially made door security bars are available to prevent the door from being opened by an intruder.
- Don’t allow strangers into the home without identification. Always ask for identification whenever a stranger comes to the door, whether it’s a delivery driver or a police officer. If in doubt, call the company or the police headquarters to verify they sent someone to your address.
- Keep small valuables secure. A small safe in the home allows seniors to keep valuables such as cash, jewelry, documents, and other important items secure. Make sure a loved one, a friend, or a trusted neighbor has the combination, in the case of emergency.
- When traveling, make it appear as if someone’s at home. A lamp timer can turn a light on and off at a preset time. Stop the newspaper and mail delivery and ask a neighbor to take your trash in.
- Guard your name. When listing your name in the phone book, directories, or apartment lobbies, use only your first initial instead of your first name. This will keep strangers from knowing your full name.
Protection for Every Room
Here are some safety tips for every room in the house.
- Fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors are now available that can trigger an alarm at a monitoring center.
- Special tools are available to make gripping easier, including rubber jar openers, padded can openers, and wide-handled cutlery.
- A wheeled trolley can help seniors bring food safely from the kitchen to another room.
- Rooms shouldn’t be cluttered with furniture. Arrange furniture so there’s ample space to walk around.
- Seniors need more light than younger people. Adequate lighting can reduce falls and other household accidents.
- Rugs can cause falling accidents. Remove rugs or attach them to the floor with special double-sided tape.
- Grab bars should be installed to help seniors to get in and out of the tub and on and off the toilet.
- Elevated toilet seats can help those who have a hard time bending.
- A bath bench can make it easier to get in and out of the tub.
- Non-slip mats should be placed outside the shower and near the sink and the toilet to prevent falls.
- A stair lift eliminates the need to walk up and down stairs, reducing the danger of falling down stairs.
- Handrails should be installed on both sides of the staircase.
Taking the time to make the home safer can literally be the difference between life and death. That’s why it’s so important to keep safety in the forefront when it comes to your older parents and loved ones. Performing a safety check only takes a few minutes and can go a long way toward preventing a serious injury.