It is very important for seniors and their families to feel safe at home. Seniors are especially at risk for falls, fires, and other safety issues. Here are a few suggestions as to how you can keep your loved ones safe at home.
- Keep important phone numbers close by: Make sure that your loved one has all emergency phone numbers readily available in case there is an emergency. Make sure that these numbers include both emergency and non-emergency numbers for the police and fire department as well as doctor’s phone number, family that should be contacted in an emergency, as well as the Poison Control phone number 1-800-222-1222. Program these numbers as ICE (in case of emergency) contacts in their cell phone so that they can be easily accessed in the event that they are unconscious. Also have the numbers posted somewhere with high visibility in the main area of the home as well as the bedroom.
- Prevent falls: Ask your loved one’s provider about fall risk assessments and balance exercises. Provide a special bracelet or necklace with an alarm or an alert that they can press in the event of a fall that prevents them from getting to their phone. Consider installing a cordless phone or investing in a cell phone if they do not already have one so that they do not have to get up quickly or rush to the phone in an effort to answer it. Invest in some slippers or house shoes that have rubber on the soles or another type of non-slip material. Make sure that your loved one is always using a cane and or walker. Also try to avoid the use of area rugs that can easily be tripped over. Tape down electrical cords that are regularly out to avoid tripping and falling. Walk through your loved ones home once in a while and check for recognizable fall hazards that need to be remedied.
- Safety proof your home: Make sure that all hallways, stairs, etc. are well lit and uncluttered. Make sure that any rails and banisters are sturdy. Be sure that there are no tripping hazards around the top or bottom of the stairs. Stay aware of consumer recalls about things that your loved one uses every day. Make sure that the home is well stocked with emergency provisions in case they are ever caught in a disaster like an earthquake, hurricane, snowstorm, etc. Make sure that the home has a basic first aid kit.
- Avoid fire hazards: Fires are especially dangerous in the homes of seniors who use oxygen. It is important to have various smoke alarms throughout the home. Test them regularly to make sure that the batteries are still working. Formulate an fire escape plan with your loved one. Check to make sure that there are no obvious fire hazards in the home. Check recalls on space heaters, electric blankets, etc. In the winter make sure that any space heaters are safely placed throughout the home, at least 3 feet away from everything else and maybe call before bed time to make sure that they are turned off or on a timer to turn off. Do not let your loved one cook when they are alone if they are in a very forgetful stage of life. Clean out the lint trap of the clothes dryer regularly and make sure that the dryer is pulled far enough away from the wall to prevent overheating. Also make sure that there are no fire hazards outdoors. If your loved one is a smoker, try setting up a designated smoking area within the home or outdoors so that your loved one lowers the risk of falling asleep with a lit cigarette or hazards like catching papers on fire and things like that.
- Remove bathroom hazards: Showers and bathrooms are dangerous places for seniors and people with disabilities. You can and should have grab bars installed in the shower to assist with balance. Textured floors or tiles can also assist with preventing slips and falls. Installing a permanent seat in the shower is also highly recommended. If your loved one has difficulty getting on or off of the toilet, there are some rather comfortable raised toilet seats that can be purchased. Cloth bath mats and rugs are not recommended in the bathroom since they are tripping hazards. Rubber mats and rugs are much better than cloth accessories in the bathroom.
- Beware of Carbon Monoxide: Never try to heat your home with sources that are not meant to heat the home. Keep carbon monoxide detectors near all bedrooms and living spaces and make sure that the batteries are working. Never mix cleaning supplies, doing so can release gases into the environment that can be toxic.
- Use and Store Medications Safely: Make sure that all medication is stored in it’s proper container, labeled, and current. Throw out old or expired medications. Keep a posted medication schedule for your loved one so that they know when they need to take their medications. Do not let anyone who is in more advanced stages of dementia medicate themselves. Be familiar with the contraindications of the medications that your loved one is taking. Do not let them mix medications and alcohol. Be aware of the reactions too much sun may cause with each medication. Make sure that the medications are being refilled on time and that none are being skipped due to costs. Most medication manufacturers have coupons or discount programs available and GoodRX is a legitimate way to cut medication costs (it is a free service and you don’t even need to set up an account most of the time).
- Store Cleaning Products Safely: Make sure that all household cleaners are stored in logical places and are properly labeled. Do not mix cleaning supplies. Do not store cleaners in drink containers or in the fridge. Tell your loved one where things are. Make sure that all containers are stored with lids on properly and spray triggers in the off position to avoid you or your loved one accidentally getting spray in the eyes or mouth.
- Beware of Abusive Situations: Do not hire random, unverified people to care for your loved one. Invest in their care and safety by going through reputable organizations. Check in on your loved one. Listen to their complaints. Watch for fearful reactions to their caretakers. Pay attention to warning signs like unexplained or abnormal bruising or injuries. Watch the interactions between your loved one and their caretaker, visit during the caretakers shift. Keep the home secure to avoid break ins, robberies, and other criminal activity. Install security cameras or nanny cams and review them regularly, report suspicious activity. Do not share personal information with anyone outside of your family and doctors. If it seems strange that they should ask for information, do not give them any. Make sure that your loved one knows never to sign anything without reading it through discussing it with a friend, family member, or lawyer. Make sure that they know to never let strangers into their home without proper identification. For instance, if a man comes and says that he is the cable/internet installer and your loved one is not expecting any such person, do not open the door, do not let them in, no matter how insistent they may be. Call the company that they say they are from to verify. If they get aggressive or will not leave, call 911 for help.