Safety at Home
There could be dangers lurking in your home just waiting to trip you up… literally! Take a moment to review this list of the top ten safety hazards that could be a potential issue in the home.
1. Poor lighting. Inside or out, poor lighting creates a fall hazard, cooking or fire hazard and could even make your loved one an easy target for criminals. Many seniors suffer with eye conditions that cause poor vision. Make sure walkways, halls and stairs are well lit. Consider motion sensors or nightlights by entryways, hallways and even bathrooms.
2. Clutter. Many people don't like to walk around with bulky items in their arms so they tend to let things pile up on the stairs, by the door or on the counters too near (or even on top of) the stove. Be aware of clutter on shelves and in upper cabinets that can fall and cause injury.
3. Throw rugs. Too much furniture in a room and other items on the floor or close to the floor can cause a fall. Try to get rid of all extension cords or cables strung across walking areas. Tripping on a rug or catching a foot or toe on a table or chair sticking out in the traffic path can cause a serious tumble.
4. Bath and water hazards. Turn the water heater down to a safe 120-degree temperature. Burns from scalding water are common and can be particularly dangerous. Place non-skid mats in front of the sink and tub to absorb excess water and prevent falls. Bathtubs can be dangerous, even with a non-skid surface. If you're considering updating your home, think about installing a tub/shower combo that has a step and molded seat, or a sit-in shower that has specially-designed drains and no step at all. It's easier to sit and hold a hand shower. Install grab bars next to the toilet and around the tub. Swap out faucet knobs in the kitchen and bath for easier to maneuver levers.
5. Cooking and fire hazards. Watch your loved one in the kitchen. Pay attention to how steady their hands are, how they handle knives, if they can open cans properly. Is food stored properly or is it left out? Watch for the placement of a towel, oven mitt or pot holder - are they close to any burners? Get rid of candles and cover up or dismantle fireplaces, especially if they are unused anyway. Get rid of any space heaters. Radiators should have well-constructed, heat-safe covers to avoid burns.
6. Home Temperature. Be on the lookout for a house that's not cold enough or warm enough. Your loved ones may not realize they're overheated or they may be trying to save on heating/cooling costs. Either way, make sure your loved one is not in danger of heat exhaustion or hypothermia. Check frequently to ensure temperatures are safe.
7. Car safety. Make sure there is ample room for the car as well as for getting into and out of the car. If your loved one has a garage, this may mean having to clean items out of the way. Can your loved one open the garage door on their own? Are cars parked in the garage or in the driveway? Are there any items in the driveway? Does their car have any unexplained dents? Have you checked the glove compartment for tickets and to see that insurance and registration are current?
8. Outdoor safety. Does your loved one have a peep hole or a way to open the front door to talk to someone and still be safe? Do they still have sliding glass back doors? If so, these can be a potential point of entry for an intruder as well as a tripping hazard. Consider changing them out for French doors with lever handles and deadbolts. Are the outdoor steps cracked or too large for them to comfortably climb, or have they pulled away from the house? Are there vines or other debris in the yard that could create a risk for tripping? Are there overhanging branches, leaky roofs or other housing repair issues?
9. Communication concerns. How does your loved one stay in contact with friends, family and others? Can they operate their house phone? Can they use a cell phone and will they keep it charged? Do you need to purchase a simpler phone with fewer features? Do they forget where they put the phone? Should you consider a monitoring system that can reach them by a speaker phone system?
10. Emergency situations. Floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, lightning strikes and heat waves - all of these natural disasters can wreak havoc when trying to reach your elder parent to make sure they're safe and can manage. Know where your parent's nearest safety shelter is located. Know someone who lives with them or very nearby who can get to them quickly. Have their meds and pertinent documents ready at all times. Talk about how to handle an emergency and create mock scenarios you can walk through for practice. These are just a few of the things you should think about to keep you and your loved ones safe.