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Home Safety for Seniors: Key Tips to Prevent Common Hazards

As we age, our homes can become increasingly dangerous places. 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.

In addition, the risk of falling increases, and we may be less able to recover from a fall if we do take a tumble.

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.

Other risks in a home 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.

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Following are some tips and home safety measures that seniors and family caregivers can use to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.

Keeping Safe Room By Room

The list of potential home hazards for elderly folks is long. 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:

Living rooms:

  • 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.

Bedrooms:

  • 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.

Bathrooms:

  • 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 shower heads.
  • 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.

General tips:

  • 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.

For more info, see our Senior Home Safety Checklist For Seniors Living Alone.

Common Dangers In The Home

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. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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. A pill organizer can be very useful for this.

Also – dispose of expired or unused medications properly. Keep track of expiration dates and throw out anything that is no longer needed.

7. 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.

8. Falls – As we mentioned in the intro, fall risk increases as we age. 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.

9. Financial Exploitation – Unfortunately, many seniors lose money to scam artists and thieves. This is often because they are seen as easy targets.

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.

10. 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.

11. Isolation and Loneliness – Older adults may 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.

Encourage your loved one to stay involved in activities they enjoy, and connect them with social support groups or services if needed. If possible, visit them regularly, and definitely stay in touch via phone, email, or social media.

This list of 11 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.

Of course, if they are unable to live alone, consider hiring a professional caregiver to be with them and/or a different housing option.

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.

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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)
  • Bedsores
  • Infections
  • Burns
  • Lacerations
  • Sprains
  • 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.

How To Reduce Fall Risk

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 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.

A Home Safety Assessment Can Point Out Dangers

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.

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.

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