As the population ages, more and more seniors are finding themselves living in their own homes. This can be a good thing, as it gives them more independence and control over their lives. However, it can also be dangerous, as seniors may not be aware of the safety risks that exist in their home environment. In this article, In-Home Safety for the Elderly, we discuss some of the in-home safety hazards that seniors should be aware of. We also provide home safety tips on how to protect them from these risks.
Unfortunately, many older adults enjoying independent living in their own homes are at a higher risk of being victims of crime. As we get older, our ability to take care of ourselves decreases. In-home safety for seniors is paramount not only to their well-being but to those who love and care for them as well.
From the possibility of break-ins, home burglary, kitchen, bathroom to bedroom accidents, taking steps to feel safer and prevent those accidents is easier to accomplish nowadays than in days gone by.
There are so many new, as well as tried and true products that can make the home so much safer.
Have you ever been unsure who is at the front door, or maybe you heard something outside and wanted to take a look but definitely didn’t want to be in harm’s way and go outside to look? For these reasons and more security cameras are an excellent investment.
Security cameras can act as a deterrent to crime – when criminals are looking to burglarize or commit another type of crime; they aren’t looking for a home that has a camera, more than likely, they will move on to a less secure residence.
Also, security cameras can help the police identify if someone has committed a crime on the property.
Some security camera plans allow for 24-hour monitoring from a professional service. With a press of a button, you can alert them if you need help and request emergency services.
Security cameras can be used not only to monitor the front door and other areas outside but also the inside of the home if you want to keep an eye on an elderly or bed-bound family member or even a pet.
If you do have or plan on purchasing a security camera, be sure to clean and maintain it so they aren’t compromised with dirt and debris. To learn how to clean them easily, read: How To Clean Security Cameras – Get Rid Of Dirt And Debris.
The newest security device from Amazon is called Amazon Astro. It is more than a security camera as it has a multitude of uses and is referred to as the household robot.
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Most homes and apartments come with smoke detectors. These are valuable devices that can indeed be a lifesaver. In-home fires comprise most of the fatalities due to fires.
However, smoke detectors do need maintenance. You should test the detector once a month to be sure it’s working. It would be best if you cleaned them or have them cleaned every six months.
If they are too high up on the ceiling to reach, some companies or handypersons can take care of this for you. I had this experience where one of my smoke detectors was at the top of a 12-foot cathedral ceiling. There was no way I was able to reach it. I hired a handyman who specialized in smoke alarms to replace mine, and I will call him when it comes time to maintain them.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Maybe not as popular as smoke detectors, but carbon monoxide detectors are equally as important. Not as many homes are equipped with carbon monoxide detectors as smoke detectors, so be sure you have them.
Deadly odorless gases can be spreading through your home that go undetectable by smell to humans.
The National Safety Council recommends:
- You install a carbon monoxide detector in the hallway near each separate sleeping area in your home.
- Also, have your furnace and water heater serviced every year.
- Don’t heat your home with a gas stove.
I knew a boy whose family had just gone through their home and made sure all the windows and doors were sealed to keep out the cold air. Unfortunately, unknown to the family, carbon monoxide then accumulated in the house. His parents were unable to wake him the next morning; however, he was revived but suffered severe brain damage.
Of course, if there is a fire, you want to remain safe. But maybe you’re cooking and start a small grease fire – this is where an in-home fire extinguisher comes in handy.
You might think an extinguisher is too heavy. There are in-home fire extinguishers as light as 5 pounds. There is even an extinguisher in a can that weighs only 2 pounds, so most people will be able to handle them.
Be sure you can handle the fire extinguisher and learn how to use one before needing it.
Again, safety is first, so get out if you are in any danger at all. As the saying goes, you can’t be replaced.
When we talk about home safety, we can’t ignore the kitchen. So many accidents are ready to happen there. It can be a treacherous place to navigate, from burns to cuts, fires, slips, and fall risks.
Though accidents can happen in the kitchen, many precautions can be taken.
With cooking, there is always an inherent risk of a fire starting. It’s better when cooking to wear short sleeves. A fire extinguisher is an essential product for your home and kitchen.
Fireballs can also be used if you can mount them above your stove/oven. Fireballs will self-activate once a flame hits them.
Fire extinguishers should be kept in an easy-access area. But again, if you are in any danger, get out.
Be sure area rugs are secure and don’t slip. It’s best to have rubber-backed mats than area rugs that can be tripped on or cause someone to slip and possibly fall.
I think anyone who has spent any time in the kitchen knows how easy it is to cut yourself, even when being careful. Some products help prevent such painful accidents.
- Cut Resistant Gloves
- I remember wire mesh gloves from working in a grocery store. They were required to be worn by the butchers and the deli workers whenever using knives or machines to cut. Mesh gloves were effective for them but can also be very effective in the everyday kitchen.
A smaller version you might find as effective is finger guards. They can be found in wire mesh material that prevents cuts. This allows you to slice but has a barrier between your fingers and the knife.
When cooking or baking, it is so easy to get burned. Some products help prevent this accident from happening.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve reached into the oven to pull out a baking dish, and my arm touches the rack.
A product I just found that helps prevent this from happening is heat-resistant silicone oven rack shields. They are easy to install by either snapping or sliding on.
We probably all grew up with oven mitts. These can be effective, but they can be thin or get holes exposing your hands to possible burns. There are now silicone mitts that are heat resistant, which helps protect from burns. Many have a grip on them that helps prevent dropping.
Hot Water Hazard
Installing rubberized water faucet covers for the kitchen sink are color-coded with red for hot and blue for cold helping to alleviate hot water burns. An added bonus is that being they are rubberized makes them easier to grip and turn on and off than traditional ones.
The bathroom can be one of the most hazardous rooms in your home, especially for slips and falls. There are many steps you can take and products you can purchase to alleviate many of the dangers.
One of the most significant potential hazards is a shower that you have to climb over a tub wall.
This becomes even more hazardous as you make your way out when there is water on your feet, making a slip or, even worse, a fall so easy to happen.
Also, getting in and out of the shower can be an added risk if you have limited mobility.
Walk-In Jacuzzi Tub
If you or your loved one enjoys the relaxing activity of soaking in a tub but doesn’t have the mobility or balance to climb over a bathtub ledge, then a walk-in jacuzzi tub might be what you are looking for.
They have models that have just the soak option, as well as the option of having jacuzzi jets. I recently wrote a comparison review of 5 walk-in jacuzzi tubs, “Walk In Jacuzzi Tubs,” that you might find interesting when considering a new tub.
Low Step/Walk-In Shower
I had knee surgery, and other than it being somewhat comical how I maneuvered in and out of the shower, it was downright dangerous. What I did was replace the tub/shower with a low step-in shower. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to get in and out of. Another option is a walk-in shower that has no step-over at all.
Transfer Bench/Shower Chair
If a walk-in shower isn’t something you want to purchase, there is an option of a transfer bench that allows you to sit down outside of the shower and slide over into the shower while still setting.
Another use of a transfer bench or shower chair is that it allows you to sit while washing. This also comes in handy if you have balance problems.
When done, reverse the process and move your legs up and over the tub to get out.
A shower chair is placed in the shower, but you will still need to be able to get in the shower. So if you have good balance and no mobility issues, this could be a viable choice for you.
If you love a bath but find it difficult to get in and out of the tub, not to mention hazardous, a bath lift can be a good option. I have found it difficult to get down and up off the floor, let alone in a tub full of water. With a bath lift, you sit on the lift, and it lowers you in and out of the water.
Slip Resistant Shower Stepping Stool
A shower stepping stool is a wide-based stool that adds height and ease to getting in and out of the shower or tub. However, you must be careful as these are slip-resistant, not slip-proof, and you also need mobility to use them as you are still climbing up on the step.
Bath Rails/Grab Rails
Bath grab rails aka grab bars can assist when in the shower and if you have balance issues. They can be used to steady yourself when entering and exiting the tub/shower for a safer experience.
If you are going to install grab bars, I would suggest getting ones that are secured with screws. They do make grab bars to adhere with suction, but personally, I would feel more secure and safe knowing they were screwed in.
DO NOT use towel racks as a support tool. They aren’t designed to support body weight and may fail if used to do so.
One of the least expensive products you can purchase for added shower/tub safety is a rubber mat. Easy to put to use – lay it in the shower; that’s it. Just be careful that it’s secure and slip-proof.
- Elevated Seat
- Sometimes with limited mobility, a toilet that is higher than usual can be such as great aid. Say if you have had knee surgery and have trouble bending your leg, having an raised toilet seat can make it easier and help prevent falls.
- Another option is a portable bidet. This will help you clean yourself – useful if you have limited mobility with your arms and reaching. A bidet sprays warm water to clean and then warm air to dry.
If you are able to install grab bars by the toilet, they can provide additional safety and security when sitting down or standing up in the bathroom.
Having a call button, or medical alert, in the bathroom can provide added safety. If something should happen, such as a slip or fall, or if assistance is needed having a call button to alert a family member or a family caregiver can be an excellent accessory to have in the bathroom.
Miscellaneous Bathroom Safety
- Place electrical appliances and electric cords away from any water source.
- Set the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees to prevent burns.
- Avoid having portable heaters in your bathroom.
In a room where rest and relaxation is the purpose, it’s hard to believe there could be dangers lurking a senior’s bedroom.
To help reduce the risk of tripping – clear clutter, including electric cords, off the floor so the walking path is wide. It’s also a good idea to remove any throw rugs that can easily be tripped or slipped on.
Make sure the bed is of the appropriate height. Beds that are too high or too low can cause a fall. According to the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the recommendation is that beds should be 20-23 inches high from the floor, measuring up to the top of the mattress.
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Bed rails can serve two functions. One is to prevent falling out of bed. The other is they can be used to balance while setting up and getting out of bed.
Placing night lights in the bedroom to light a pathway helps avoid trips and bumping into furniture in the dark. There are motion sensored night lights that automatically come on when movement is detected.
Video: Home Safety
Home Safety Checklist
- Check for and replace burnt out light bulbs.
- Discourage the use of space heaters.
- Keep a cell phone nearby when possible.
- Keep a list of emergency phone numbers handy.
- Keep windows and doors locked at all times.
- Make sure light switches are accessible.
- Place light switches at the top and bottom of any stairs.
- Sleep on the ground floor of the home if possible for easy exit.
A Wise Investment
Implementing measures to add home safety for seniors is well worth the investment. According to the National Safety Council:
- More than one in four older adults fall every year.
- 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments each year for fall injuries
- More than 800,000 patients are hospitalized each year because of injuries due to a fall, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
These statistics are just slips and falls, not other injuries that were mentioned in the article. If you can even add some home safety tips mentioned in this post, In-Home Safety for the Elderly post in your or your aging parents’ home, you can help alleviate some of the hazards that are a part of most homes.
What experiences have you had with your home being unsafe, or measures you have taken to increase your home’s safety? I would love to hear your stories. Please comment below.