Due to the growing number of older adults living at home independently, it’s increasingly important to make sure they continue to stay safe at home. You and your elder loved ones should be aware of the many potential dangers that can be present in the home and prepare accordingly. Falls, burns, and poisonings are a few of the most common accidents involving older adults. To help prevent these accidents, here are a few tips to follow.
Keep emergency numbers handy. Always keep a list of emergency numbers nearby the phone. Write the information legible and large enough so that it can be read easily when hurried or frightened. Important numbers to include are: 911, Poison control, close family member or friend, healthcare provider’s office.
Prevent falls. Make sure hallways, stairs, and paths are well lit and clear of objects such as clothes, shoes, and rugs. Use night lights at night. Use rails when going up and down stairs. Tape down all area rugs to the floor so they do not move when you walk on them. If you use a cane or walker, use it at all times instead of holding onto walls and furniture. When walking on smooth floors, wear non-slip footwear with rubber/non-slip bottoms. Don’t rush to a phone when it’s ringing. Carry a cordless or cell phone or let the answering machine pick it up and return the call. Always get up slowly from a bed or chair, and make sure you have your balance before you begin walking. Remove electrical cords and telephone cords from traffic areas. Avoid using slippery wax when cleaning floors. Clean up spills promptly. Avoid standing on ladders or chairs. Ask a family member or neighbor for assistance. If you have fallen before, think about buying a med alert necklace that will call emergency services for you.
Protect against fire related dangers. If there is a fire in the home, don’t try and put it out. Call 911 immediately and know your exits. Don’t wear loose clothing or long sleeves when cooking. Replace appliances with frayed or damaged electrical cords. Don’t put to many electrical cords into one socket. Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector and keep the batteries replaced at least twice a year. Never smoke in bed or when tired. Never leave candles burning in an empty room. Make sure heaters are at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn such as curtains, bedding, or furniture.
Avoid bathroom hazards. Leave a light on in the bathroom at night to help visualization. Set the hot water heater thermostat no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding. Make sure cold and hot water faucets are distinguished clearly and label if necessary. Use grab bars in the shower and near the toilet to assist with standing. Put rubber non-slip mats in the bathroom to prevent slipping and skid proof the tub. Ask for assistance in getting a special tub chair or toilet seat if getting up and down is hard. If possible, bathe when there is assistance.
Prevent poisoning. Never try and heat the home with a stove, oven, or grill since these give off carbon monoxide. Keep medications in their original containers so they don’t get confused or mixed up. Ask your pharmacist to put large-print labels on your medication bottles. Bring all medications to every doctor’s appointment to verify them. Dispose of old and unused medications. Check with your doctor before mixing prescription and non-prescription medications as some may have side effects. Never mix bleach, ammonia, or other cleaning liquids together when cleaning. When mixed, some may create deadly gases.
Protect against abuse. Keep windows and doors locked at all times. Do not let strangers inside the home. Do not give into telephone or email offers and scams. Speak with a family member before signing up for anything or sending money to anyone. Do not be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts, or making donations until discussing with a family member. Never give out personal information such as banking information or social security number.
Kitchen safety. Keep floors clean and uncluttered. Illuminate work areas. Mark on and off position on appliances clearly. Store sharp knives in a rack. Use a kettle or coffee pot with an automatic shut-off. Store heavy objects at waist level or on the counter. Store hazardous items separate from food. Make sure food is rotated regularly and check expiration dates.