It is important to make sure that we help older adults stay safe, especially in their own home. With the increasing number of older adults living independently, it is becoming even more critical to provide them with more home safety tips. Several sources show that older adults who live independently are more likely to become victims of criminals who target older people. Additionally, falls, burns, and poisonings are among the most common accidents involving older people.
If you’re an older adult living alone or you care for an older person, here are some safety tips for you.
Keep emergency numbers by each phone.
Write this information large enough that an older person may read it more easily especially if you or they are in a hurry or frightened. Make sure to list the following numbers:
- Poison Control: 1-800-332-1414
- Emergency contact
- Healthcare provider’s office
- If you have difficulty with walking or balance, and have a higher risk of falling, talk to a healthcare provider about having a special falls risk assessment.
- Ask your provider if you’d benefit from an exercise program to prevent falls.
- Consider getting a special alarm that can be worn as a bracelet or a necklace, or a wearable button that you can press to dial 911 and/or alert family members or neighbours.
- Do not rush to answer the phone. Rushing to answer the phone often increases risks for falls. Instead, consider using a cellphone or a cordless phone or allowing the answering machine to pick up.
- When walking on smooth floors, wear non-slip footwear such as slippers with rubber or no-slip bottoms or flat thin-soled shoes.
- If you have a cane or a walker, use it at all times instead of holding onto walls and furniture.
- If you are at very high risk for falls, put on hip pads.
- Have your vision checked regularly.
Safety-proof your home
- Make sure all hallways, stairs, and paths are well lit and clear of objects such as books or shoes to prevent tripping or falling. Install nightlights in areas you frequently go to at night. Also, consider leaving a flashflight next to you at night time.
- Use rails and banisters especially when using the stairs and never place scatter rugs at the bottom or top of the stairs.
- Tape all area rugs to the floor to ensure they do not move when you walk on them.
- Store frequently-used items on lower shelves in the kitchen to limit the use of stools or step-ladders. If you must use a step stool, use one with a bar to hold onto.
Avoid bathroom hazards
- Set the thermostat on the water heater to no higher than 120F to prevent scalding (48.8C).
- Have grab bars installed in the shower and near the toilet to make getting around easier and safer.
- Put rubber mats, non-slip mats, or decals in the bathtub and on any ceramic surfaces both in and outside the tub to prevent slipping.
- If you are having a hard time getting in and out of your tub (or on and off the toilet), ask your provider to help you get a special tub chair/bench, or a raised toilet seat.
Protect against fire and related damages
- If there is a fire in your home, do not try to put it out. Leave the house and call the fire department or 9-1-1.
- Know at least two ways to get out of your home.
- When cooking, do not wear loose fitting clothes or clothing with long sleeves.
- Replace appliances that have fraying or damaged electrical cords.
- Do not put too many electrical cords into one socket or extension cord.
- Install a smoke detector and replace the battery twice a year.
- Never smoke in bed or leave any candles burning, even for a short amount of time in an empty room or unoccupied space.
- Make sure heaters are at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn (curtains, bedding, or furniture).
- Turn off space heaters when you leave the room.
- Carbon monoxide
- Never try to heat your home using your stove, oven, or grill: they can give off carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that you cannot see or smell
- Make sure there is a carbon monoxide detector near all bedrooms
- Test and replace the carbon monoxide detector battery twice a year
- Store all medications in their original containers so they do not get mixed up but if you must transfer medication to a new container, clearly label it with the medication name, dose, and expiration date.
- Check medication expiration dates on all prescription and over-the-counter medications – and follow all directions.
- Ask pharmacists to write large print labels on medications to make them easier to read.
- Take medications in a well-lit room so the labels can be seen and read.
- Bring all pill bottles with you to your healthcare provider’s appointments so they can look at them to make sure they are being taken correctly.
- Cleaning products
- Never mix bleach, ammonia, or other cleaning liquids together when you are cleaning. When mixed, cleaning liquids can create deadly gases.
Protect against abuse or other types of crime
- Keep windows and doors locked at all times.
- Never let a stranger into your home when you are there alone.
- Do not share personal information, such as social security number, credit card or bank information, or account passwords, with people you do not know who contact you.
- Always ask for written information about offers, prizes, or charities and wait to respond until you have reviewed the information thoroughly.
- Do not let yourself be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts, or making donations; it is never rude to wait and discuss the plans with a family member or friend.
Other helpful sources: