Updated July 17, 2022 – As we age, our homes can become increasingly dangerous places. Our risk of falling increases, and we may be less able to recover from a fall if we do take a tumble. Additionally, many common household items can pose serious safety hazards for elderly adults. It’s important to be aware of these risks so that you can make your home as safe as possible.
There are many safety risks that elderly people face in their homes. One of the most common is falls. Falls can occur when a person trips over an extension cord or something or simply loses their balance. They can be very dangerous, especially if the person falls down stairs or hits their head.
Hospital emergency rooms are often full of elderly patients who have been injured in falls. Falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors, and they can happen anywhere – in the home, on the stairs, or even in the bathtub.
Other risks include fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, and electrical shocks.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Fire Administration, and AAA all reveal that seniors have a greater risk of common accidents than the general population.A Place For Mom
Here are some tips and safety measures that seniors and family caregivers can use to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries in the home:
What Are Safety Hazards
The home is a place where we should feel safe and secure. However, for many older people, the home can be full of hidden dangers. Here are some common safety hazards to look out for in the home:
1. Storage containers – One of the most common safety hazards in homes of elderly people is improperly storing items. Make sure to always store medications and cleaning supplies, etc. in their original containers and keep them out of reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
2. Slippery floors – Wet or polished floors can be very slippery and dangerous, especially for those with poor balance or mobility issues. Be sure to clean up any spills right away, and use non-slip mats in bathrooms and kitchens. Read about non slip flooring.
3. Poor lighting – Dim lighting can make it difficult to see, which can lead to falls or other accidents. Make sure all areas of your home are well-lit, and consider installing night lights in hallways and bathrooms.
4. Staircases – Stairs can be very dangerous, especially if they are poorly lit or have loose carpeting. If possible, install a stairlift or handrail to make them safer. Read about how to make stairs safer.
5. Scalding – Hot water scalding is a serious hazard for elderly adults. The risk of scalding increases with age, as skin becomes thinner and more sensitive to heat. Elderly adults are also more likely to have chronic medical conditions that can make them more susceptible to scalding injuries.
6. Fire hazards – Things like candles, electrical appliances and smoking materials can all be fire hazards. Be sure to keep them away from flammable objects and never leave them unattended. Read about our home fire safety tips.
7. Medication – Many seniors take multiple medications, which can be confusing and dangerous if not taken properly. Be sure to keep track of all the medications your elderly loved one is taking, and help them to organize them in a way that makes sense to them.
Be sure to dispose of expired or unused medications properly. Many seniors take multiple medications, so it’s important to keep track of expiration dates and to throw out anything that is no longer needed.
A pill organizer like this one that I use can be very useful.
8. Driving – As we age, our reflexes slow down and our vision may not be as sharp as it once was. This can make driving dangerous, especially if we are not aware of our limitations.
If you are worried about your elderly loved one’s ability to drive safely, talk to them about it and help them to find alternative transportation options. Read more about driving issues with seniors.
9. Falls – According to the National Council on Aging, one in four seniors falls each year. This can lead to serious injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas. To help decrease the risk of falls, make sure your loved one’s home is free of tripping hazards, and that they are wearing proper footwear.
10. Financial Exploitation – Unfortunately, many seniors are targeted by scam artists and thieves. This is often because they are seen as easy targets, with disposable income and little experience dealing with financial matters.
To help protect your loved one from being taken advantage of, talk to them about common scams, and be sure that their banking information is kept private.
11. Poor Nutrition and Hydration – As we age, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing nutrients from food. This can lead to seniors becoming dehydrated and malnourished, even if they are eating and drinking regularly.
Be sure to monitor your loved one’s intake of fluids and foods, and talk to their doctor if you have any concerns.
12. Isolation and Loneliness – As we age, we can lose touch with friends and family, and become isolated from the outside world. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, which can in turn lead to depression and other health problems.
To help combat isolation and loneliness, encourage your loved one to stay involved in activities they enjoy, and connect them with social support groups or services if needed. You can also visit them regularly, and stay in touch via phone, email, or social media.
This list of 12 potential safety hazards are just the most common ones that seniors may face in their homes. Be sure to keep an eye out for these and other dangers, and take steps to mitigate them as needed.
By doing so, you can help your loved one age safely and independently in their own home for as long as possible.
If you have a family member who is elderly, be sure to talk to them about these hazards and how to stay safe.
Of course, if they are unable to be safe on their own, consider hiring a professional caregiver to be with them and/or a different housing option.
Keeping Safe Room By Room
The home is full of potential hazards for seniors. But by taking some simple precautions, you can help keep your elderly loved ones safe from harm. Here are some tips for making each room in the house safer:
- Remove tripping hazards like throw rugs or cords that run across the floor.
- Keep furniture close to the walls to create a clear path through the room.
- Install night lights and make sure there’s plenty of light during the daytime, too.
- Consider a medical alert system in case your loved one falls and can’t get up.
- The bed should be close to the door so your loved one can easily get in and out.
- Remove clutter from the floor to prevent tripping.
- Keep a night light within reach in case your loved one needs to get up during the night.
- Make sure there’s a working smoke alarm in the room.
- Install grab bars next to the toilet, shower, and bathtub.
- Consider a raised toilet seat to make it easier to get up and down.
- Use a nonslip mat in the tub or shower.
- Install anti-scald devices on faucets and showerheads.
- Place a shower seat in the shower so your loved one can sit down if necessary.
- Use a special tub chair to help get in and out of the bathtub safely.
- Make sure there’s plenty of light in the room, and keep a night light within reach.
- Keep the floor dry to prevent slipping.
- Remove throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep them in place.
- Keep electric cords out of the way to prevent tripping.
- Make sure there is adequate lighting throughout the house.
- Set the home’s water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding.
- Move furniture away from doorways so your loved one can move around freely.
- Store frequently used items within easy reach.
- Use a cordless phone so your loved one can carry it with them.
- Use Alexa or Google Home devices to make it ease to call for help in case of emergency.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers by the phone.
- Install handrails on both sides of stairways.
- Keep walkways and stairs well lit.
- Consider installing a stairlift or a home elevator if your loved one has difficulty going up and down stairs.
- Make sure the home is equipped with working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Test the alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
- Develop an evacuation plan in case of fire or other emergency.
- Keep a flashlight and extra batteries on hand.
- Have your loved one wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that includes their name, address, and phone number.
- Keep a list of your loved one’s medications, dosages, and allergies in a easily accessible place.
- Review the list with their doctor and pharmacist regularly.
- Make sure all medications are kept in their original containers.
- Dispose of expired or unused medications properly.
- Keep the home well-lit, both inside and out.
- Install handrails on all stairways and in the shower or bathtub.
- Remove throw rugs or secure them with double-sided tape.
- Arrange furniture so there are clear paths throughout the home.
- Keep a cordless phone within easy reach.
- Consider installing a medical alert system.
- Have their doctor’s phone number and emergency contact information handy.
- Keep a copy of their advance directives in a easily accessible place.
If your loved one is using oxygen, be sure to:
- Keep the oxygen tank away from heat sources.
- Never smoke near oxygen tanks or lit candles.
- Keep a fire extinguisher near the oxygen tank.
If your loved one uses a wheelchair, be sure to:
- Keep wheelchair ramps in good repair.
- Make sure there is enough space for the wheelchair to maneuver.
What Are The Most Common Home Accidents For Seniors?
Home accidents are unfortunately all too common.
The National Safety Council says that 25 million in-home injuries occurred in homes in 2018. Accidental death is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, the NSC says the home injury death rate increased by 150 percent between 1999 and 2018.Mcheraldonline.com
According to an article in homeadvisor.com, the most common injuries that seniors suffer while living independently at home are…
- Car accidents
- House fires
- Falls (which may result in brain injuries, or hip, vertebrae or pelvis fractures)
- Joint dislocation
To help prevent accidents in the home, here are some safety tips:
- Keep floors clean and free of clutter.
- Wipe up spills immediately.
- Use non-slip rugs or mats in areas where floors are slippery.
- Keep stairs clear of clutter and repair any loose carpeting.
- Don’t leave cords from electrical appliances dangling where someone could trip over them.
- Keep poisonous chemicals, such as cleaners and insecticides, out of reach of seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Keep matches and lighters out of reach of seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and outside all sleeping areas. Test them monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year.
- Have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know how to use it.
Safety Issues For The Elderly
As we age, our risk of injury increases. As I’ve mentioned several times already, falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults, and they can lead to serious health problems including broken bones, head injuries, and even death.
There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of falling, including:
- Exercising regularly to improve your strength and balance.
- Wearing shoes that fit properly and provide good support.
- Using assistive devices such as canes or walkers if you have balance problems.
- Making your home safer by removing tripping hazards and installing grab bars in the bathroom.
If you do fall, it’s important to stay calm and call for help. Don’t try to get up on your own, as this could make your injuries worse.
If you live alone, it’s also important to have a plan in place in case of an emergency. Make sure your family or friends know how to reach you and have a list of emergency numbers handy.
You may also want to consider signing up for a personal response system, which can give you peace of mind knowing that help is always just a push of a button away.
Home Safety Assessment
A home safety assessment is an assessment of the potential hazards in your home that could cause injury, illness or death. It is conducted by a qualified professional such as an occupational therapist, physiotherapist, registered nurse, social worker or other health care provider.
The assessor will visit your home and look at:
- How you manage your daily activities
- The layout of your home
- The condition of your home
- Any hazards that may be present in your home
After the assessment, the assessor will provide you with a report detailing the findings and recommendations. These may include suggestions for changes to make your home safer or information on community resources that can help you maintain your independent living lifestyle.
A home safety assessment is an important step in ensuring the safety of elderly loved ones. By identifying potential hazards in the home, caregivers can take steps to mitigate the risk of injury.
As I’ve mentioned above, common hazards in the home include trip and fall risks, electrical dangers, and toxic substances. Taking time to conduct a thorough assessment of the home environment can help safeguard against accidents and injuries.
What Hazards Can Occur In A Care Home?
Care homes, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are built with many safety features such as hand rails, non-slip floors and emergency call buttons. However, there are still many potential hazards that can pose a threat to the health and safety of residents.
Some of the most common hazards in care homes include:
- Slips, trips and falls (a fall hazard is almost always the #1 risk factor many seniors face no matter where they may live).
- Fire safety
- Incorrect medication or self-medication
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Poor infection control
- Aggressive behavior by other residents or staff
- Lack of supervision
- Poor staff training
- Unsafe building structures and equipment
- Pest infestations.
There are many ways to reduce the risks associated with these hazards, and it is important for care home staff to be aware of them. Some simple measures that can be taken include:
- Ensuring that all floor surfaces are clean and free from trip hazards
- Carrying out regular fire drills and having an up-to-date fire safety plan
- Keeping a list of residents’ medications and ensuring that they are only given the correct doses
- Ensuring that residents have a balanced diet and access to fluids
- Implementing good infection control measures, such as hand-washing and using personal protective equipment
- Providing regular training for staff on how to deal with potential hazards
- Conducting regular risk assessments of the premises and taking action to mitigate any identified risks
- Ensuring that staff are aware of the importance of reporting any accidents or near-misses
By taking these measures, care homes can create a safe environment for their residents and help to prevent accidents and injuries.
How Can You Ensure Safety For The Elderly At Home
In addition to making a home safe, there are also things that everyone should be doing to make sure that they are as safe as possible.
It’s important to take precautions to stay safe at home. There are many things we can do to make our homes safer, from simple measures like childproofing to more advanced security systems. By taking a few extra steps, we can help keep our families safe and secure.
There are a few things we can do to help keep ourselves safe at home:
- Install good quality locks on all our doors and windows
- Keep our outside areas well lit
- Don’t open the door to strangers (install a video doorbell, such as Google Nest doorbell or a Ring doorbell. You can see who is at the door without opening it and you can talk through the doorbell speaker)
- Install and use a home security system
- Be aware of who’s around us when we’re out and about
- Trust our instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t
- Keep valuables and important documents safe and secure
- Make sure our homes are insured in case of break-ins or damage
By following these simple tips, we can help to keep ourselves and our belongings safe.