Home is where people feel the most comfortable. However, with an increasing number of older adults living independently or with in-home care, it is imperative to make sure that their home is not just comfortable, but also safe.
Falls, burns and poisonings are some of the most common accidents burdening older people. If you are an older adult living on your own, or care for an older person living alone, here are some helpful tips and pieces of information for you and your loved ones’ safety according to the American Geriatrics Society:
- Keep stairways and hallways in your home free of clutter to avoid trip hazards.
- Don’t rush to answer the phone. Many people fall trying to answer the phone. Instead, carry a cell phone or cordless phone, or let an answering machine take the call.
- Wear non-slip footwear when walking on smooth floors. Slippers with rubber bottoms or well-fitting flat shoes with thin soles are good examples.
- If you have a cane or walker, use it at all times instead of holding onto walls and furniture. Make sure the cane or walker maintains its grip to be effective on smooth floors.
- Talk with your healthcare provider about having a special falls risk assessment or participating in an exercise program to prevent falls.
- If you are at fall risk or have fallen before, consider buying a special alarm that can be worn as a bracelet or necklace. Then, if you fall and can’t get to the phone, you can push a button on the alarm that will contact emergency services for you.
Safety-Proof Your Home
- Make sure all hallways, stairways and paths are well lit and clear of clutter.
- Use rails or banisters when going up and down the stairs. Never place scatter rugs at the bottom or top of stairs.
- Tape all area rugs to the floor so they do not move when you walk over them.
Protect Against Fire and Related Dangers
- If there is a fire in your home, don’t try to put it out. Leave and call 911.
- Always know at least two routes to get out of your apartment or home.
- Install a smoke detector and replace the battery twice a year.
- Avoid wearing long sleeves or loose clothes while cooking.
- Don’t overload electrical sockets or extension cords.
- Replace appliances that have damaged electrical cords.
- Never smoke in bed or leave candles burning, even for a short time, in an empty room.
- Make sure heaters are at least three feet away from anything that can burn, such as curtains, bedding, or furniture. Turn off space heaters when you leave the room.
Avoid Bathroom Hazards
- Have grab bars installed in the shower and around the toilet to make getting around the bathroom easier.
- Put rubber mats in the bath tub to prevent slipping.
- Set the thermostat on the water heater to no higher than 120° F to prevent scalding.
- If getting in and out of the tub or getting on and off the toilet is difficult for you, ask your healthcare provider to help you get a special chair or toilet seat.
- Never try to heat your home with your stove, oven, or grill as these can give off carbon monoxide, a deadly invisible and odorless gas.
- Make sure there is a carbon monoxide detector near all bedrooms and be sure to test and replace the battery twice a year.
- Keep all medications in original containers to avoid mix ups.
- Request large print labels from your pharmacist so your medications are easy to read.
- Take your medications in a well-lit room, so you can see the labels.
- Bring all of your pill bottles to your healthcare provider’s appointments so they can make sure you are taking them correctly.
- If you are taking several medications daily, consider creating a medication schedule to avoid accidentally skipping your dose or taking more than the prescribed amount.
Keep Emergency Numbers Handy
Always keep a list of emergency numbers by each phone and add emergency numbers to your contacts in your cell phone. This information should be clear, easy to read and easy to find so it can be accessed easily if hurried or frightened. Be sure to include the following numbers:
- Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
- Family or friend emergency contact
- Healthcare provider’s office
Home safety is critically important. Taking the precautions listed above could prevent serious injury and even death.