That is an important question that we all need to ask ourselves. As we age, safety in our homes can become even more of an issue for some individuals due to physical and/or mental limitations. Older people who have accidents in the home are usually performing everyday activities. Diminished eyesight, weakened muscles and poor balance are some of the reasons seniors need to take special care. Harvard Medical School reports that accidents at home are among the leading causes of injury and death in the United States. Statistics show that the chance of dying because of complications related to a home accident begins to rise at the age of 65, and then jumps significantly. At the age of 75 and older, a person is almost 4 times more likely to die as the result of a home accident when compared with a person 65-74 years of age. I thought that information was quite dramatic and a wake-up call some of us might need. After working with the elderly population for over 30 years, I have often heard of people living in extremely unsafe situations. All we need to do is listen to the news and read the paper to know how tragic a home accident can be.
The good news is that there are ways to make our homes safer. As I researched this topic, I found a number of changes people could make in their environments that would lessen their chances of accidents. The most common home accidents are falls from ladders or stairs, and trips and slips on floors. Fires and burns are second in accident frequency, along with asphyxiation from smoke or toxic fumes.
The following is a list of general safety measures that should be in place in your home:-
– Avoid throw rugs. If you use them, make sure they are skid proof and lay flat.
– Keep stairways clear and well lit. A sturdy handrail, at least on one side of the stairway, is a must.
– Have proper lighting throughout the house. Use night lights to avoid stumbling in the dark.
– Keep the house clean and clutter free with furniture arranged for safe walking.
– Bathtubs and showers should have grab bars and non-skid strips or mat.
– Electrical cords should be placed out of high traffic areas to avoid tripping on them.
– Keep all appliances clean and in good repair. Have your furnace cleaned and serviced yearly.
– Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed throughout the house and tested periodically. Batteries should be changed every year.
– Water temperature should be set at 120 degrees or less.
– Never leave food cooking unattended or cook when you are tired. Never wear loose fitting clothing while cooking. Keep flammable items such as towels, curtains and aprons away from stoves.
– Keep stove and oven clean and free from grease. Be sure handles of pans are secure and turned toward the center of the stove.
– Keep fire extinguishers in the kitchen and other areas of the home. Learn how to use them and keep them maintained.
– Have a written evacuation plan, identifying two ways out of every room, and practice it.
– Get signed up for Lifeline Medical Alert to provide immediate service in an emergency.
– Know how and when to call 911 in an emergency.
This list outlines just some of the ways you can eliminate hazards in your home. It is always good to talk to the experts if you have concerns or questions. The fire department is more than happy to give advice to those who need help. They can give you information on where to place your smoke alarms and give you information on the use of fire extinguishers. Family and friends can also help you to accident proof your home. The changes are usually not costly but you may need some help to get things done.
If you are living in an unsafe environment and do not have the means or ability to make it safe, you owe it to yourself to make a move. Do not wait for an event that leads to a tragedy. Talk with your doctor and family to get a list of your options.
Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.