Our homes provide warmth, familiarity, and feelings of continued independence and safety. With more and more seniors living independently, it has become more critical to make sure that they are safe at home. According to a study by the Federal Housing Administration, 90% of most homeowners advancing their retirement age wish to still reside in their homes as they age.
For these seniors, when the body starts to fail from age, everyday situations can abruptly become a threat to their health. A painful fall at home could be because of un-taped carpets, inaccessible bathing areas, or steep stairs; and these could have been avoided.
Since injuries to seniors are more critical because of their fragile bones and thin skin, caution needs to be exercised all the time, especially when home alone. Trips and falls are the topmost cause of injury and the foremost cause of unconsciousness among the senior adults accounting for the most non-fatal trauma-related hospitalizations. The (CDC) reports that one out of every four Americans over the age of 65 suffers a fall each year.
To avert injuries, decrease fall risks, and guarantee independence when aging at home, families, and seniors need to consolidate home safety tips and perhaps, develop and follow a home safety checklist.
Home Safety Tips for the Seniors
Safety in the home is an important concern for seniors. Poor eyesight and hearing, dementia, arthritis, and side effects from medications are all agents that can cause a simple kitchen trip to a conceivably hazardous task.
Here are some tips to serve as guidelines to follow that will better equip you to secure yourself from danger especially while home alone.
- Avoid rushing to answer a ringing phone. Many people in the process fall trying to answer the phone. Either carry a cordless or cell phone or engage the answering machine to pick up when far from reach.
- While moving on smooth floors, avoid hasty movements. If you must, use non-slip footwear, such as thin-soled shoes or slippers with rubber/non-slip bottoms or flats, that fit well.
- Install handrails and lights on stairs, with light switches around the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Better still, if there is the presence of a cane or a walker, make use of it rather than hold onto walls and furniture.
- Eliminate potential hazards. Electrical cords, area rugs, and low tables are all risks. If there is a pet or child in the home, be sure to keep toys above ground. Place non-slip flooring and conceal all cords and wires.
- Wear hip pads if you are at high risk for falls.
- Move around or away from low-lying objects such as coffee tables, step stools, etcetera. that may emerge as a tripping hazard.
- Improve home lighting but prevent direct glare.
Protect against fire and related dangers
- When cooking, avoid wearing hanging clothes or clothes with excess sleeves – fabrics catch fire faster.
- Position pot handles away from the front edge of the stove. This ensures that you do not bump into them or catch your sleeve against them.
- Wipe off any spilled grease from the stove.
- Replace or repair damaged or frayed electrical cords appliances.
- Do not put several electric cords into an extension box.
- Fit a smoke detector and replace the battery twice a year.
- Shun smoking in bed or leaving candles burning. No matter how short a time you intend it to be, or whether in an empty room.
- Ensure a minimum of 3 feet distance of heaters from anything that is flammable, such as draperies, linens, or furniture. Turn off heaters when you vacate the room.
- Use a microwave rather than a stove.
Avoid bathroom hazards
- Set the thermostat on the water heater no higher than 120° F to avoid scalding.
- Do not use towel bars and the soap dish in the shower stall as grab bars.
- Install bathroom grab bars and near the toilet to make going around easier and safer.
- Adopt a hand-held shower hose to make it more manageable bathing.
- Always dry off before going out of the tub. Dry feet and floor decrease the risk of slipping when you hop out.
- Provide non-slip mats/ rubber mats on the shower floor to curb slipping.
- Utilize a bath bench to reduce the need to be upright in the shower or sit on the floor of the tub. Also, consider a special tub chair or raised toilet seat.
In the Bedroom
- Ensure availability of sufficient and accessible lighting.
- Maintain a sturdy nightstand beside the bed so glasses and other personal items are within reach.
- Ensure that the pathway that leads to the bed from the bathroom is clear.
- The bed should be the appropriate height to allow for safe transfers.
In Living Areas
- Arrange furniture and other objects to avoid being in the way.
- Couches and chairs should be at the proper height to get into and out of easily.
- Provide easy arrangement of seats. Prepare the home to be senior-friendly by including accessible seating, such as a bench beside the front door for stacking shoes.
- Position telephones so they are accessible. Be sure the phone cord is not lying across a walkway because that it could lead to a potential trip hazard.
- Utilize firm chairs with armrests that will provide support during transfers.
Walkways and Stairways
- Carpeting should be securely locked down, and ensure the edges of carpets and rugs are properly tacked down.
- Displace rugs that bunch up or slide, use skid-resistant rugs.
- Keep walkways clutter-free, particularly free from electrical and telephone cords.
- Set bright, contrasting colored tape on the top and bottom of steps of stairways.
- Fix and use safe handrails along the full length of both sides of stairways and hallways.
- Place slip-resistant material on bare stairs.
- Store all medications in their original containers to avoid medicine mix-up.
- Request that your pharmacist place large-print labels on your medications to make them more legible.
- Always take your medications in a well-lit room, so you can see the labels.
- Carry along with all pill bottles when visiting the healthcare provider for your appointments. This way, he or she can look at them and ascertain that they are being taken accordingly.
- Record daily, all the medications, vitamins, and supplements that you take.
- Discard medicine that has passed the expiration date. Either flush pills down the toilet or wash liquids down your kitchen sink.
Safety-Proof Your Home
- Ensure all hallways, corridors, stairs, and pathways are strongly lit and rid of objects such as books or shoes.
- Handle rails carefully when passing through the stairs, whether going up or down. Never lay messy rugs around the edge of stairs, whether at the bottom or top.
- Secure all area rugs to the ground to avoid unnecessary movements when you walk on them.
- If you must let a stranger in, let them think you have company even when you don’t. Turn on a radio or television in another room to give the impression that someone else is around. Set a timer on the radio to give the pretense of somebody else in the home when you attend to errands outside.
- Have deadbolts fitted on the doors
Securing the home for the senior does not need to be complicated or tough. These home safety tips are straightforward and common. They can even be handled easily and following through makes all the difference. To be more thorough, make a list of checks of what you can remember as they come to mind, and then tick them off as you execute.