April 5, 2017
An aging parent living at home is a good thing. It creates comfort and a feeling of security. It can keep them healthier, happier and active longer. However, in order for that to happen, they need to be safe in their own homes. That requires conducting an assessment of the home to make sure that it appropriately addresses their physical and cognitive needs. Here are some ways in which you can make sure your senior is safe at home.
Remove fall hazards: Falls are the leading cause of injury to seniors. If you want your senior to be safe at home the most important thing is to make the home “fall-safe”
• Remove throw rugs
• Remove piles of clutter including newspapers, laundry and shoes
• Install grab bars in the shower and beside the toilet
• Make sure that lighting is adequate and bright at all doorways, stairs and beside the bed
• Make sure your loved one wears non-slip footwear (including non-slip slippers) inside
Check in with them frequently: Checking in with your loved one is an important part of ensuring their safety at home. You, your loved one’s neighbors and/or a professional caregiver can help to make sure they are safe. This is especially important in extreme hot or cold weather. You can support your check-ins by encouraging your loved one to wear an alert necklace that will make it easy to call emergency services in the event of a fall.
Keep emergency numbers handy: Make it easy for your loved one to call for help, without relying on their memory. Post a note in large letters by every phone that contains the following phone numbers:
• Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
• Family members and/or friends to call in case of emergency
• Your senior’s professional caregiver service
• Your senior’s healthcare provider’s office
It is also a good idea to write these numbers on a sticker that can be placed on the back of their mobile phone
Protect against fire: Take an inventory in your loved one’s home with an eye toward potential fire hazards. Remove any fire hazards and then make sure to change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors whenever the time changes in spring and winter.
• Check the electric cords of all appliances and lamps in your loved one’s home
• Replace any that have fraying or damaged cords
• Make sure that there are not numerous cords plugged into power strips
• Remove candles from the home. If left burning and unattended, a fire can start
• Space heaters can be very dangerous and their use should be discouraged
If your loved one insists on using one, make sure it is placed at least 3 feet away from curtains, bedding or furniture
Check in with your loved one to make sure the space heater has been turned off before he or she goes to bed or leaves the house
Ensure a safe bathroom: Falls and scalding can occur in bathrooms. To ensure your loved one’s safety, makes sure that you address the following issues:
• Set the thermostat on the water heater no higher than 120° F to prevent accidental burns.
• Put rubber mats in the bathtub to prevent slipping.
• Consider placing a special bathing chair in the tub.
• A raised toilet seat with handlebars makes it easier to get up and down.
Remain safe in the home: Review common sense safety measures with your loved one. Depending upon their age, seniors can be trusting and will open the door to someone who “looks nice”. Educating your loved one on the dangers that exist in the 21st century may help to keep them safe. Discuss the following measures with your loved one and remind them frequently:
• Place a reminder note on the wall beside the door in large print saying, “Do you know this person? If not, DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR.”
• Keep your windows and doors locked at all times
• Never let a stranger into your home when you are there alone
• Never say yes to an offer on the phone. Even if callers say a family member is in danger, NEVER give away financial information or your social security number. If someone is in danger, a police officer will come to your door
• Keep your loved one informed about the latest scams targeting seniors.The National Council on Aging, and the FBI are good sources for information on the latest scams that target seniors
Keeping your loved ones safe at home, from senior scams to senior fall prevention requires common sense and a careful approach to discussing these matters with them. Sit down with them and educate them about ways to stay safe as their bodies and eyesight age, and avoid making them feel like they are teenagers again.
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