Protect Your Elderly Loved Ones With These In-Home Safety Tips
According to estimates by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), nearly 1 million people over age 65 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with the products they live with and use everyday, each year. The mortality rate from accidental injury is three times higher with elderly persons than with the younger population. Trips and falls are the main cause of in-home injury for older people. It’s shocking how many everyday items in a household can pose threat of injury. So what can you do to help prevent injury in the home? This article will give you a list of precautions to take in the home to help prevent and reduce injury.
Cords present a lot of opportunity for injury, not even just with falling, but with fire and shock hazards as well. To reduce the risk of injury, it is important to make sure that all cords are:
- In good condition, not frayed or damaged in anyway. Damaged cords can cause a fire or shock hazard.
- Away from where they can be tripped on. Telephone cords, extension cords, electrical cords, etc. all are very easy to trip over if left in the wrong spot. Make sure to arrange the furniture in a way that provides ample space to store cords in a safe place where they can’t be tripped on.
- Not tucked under furniture, carpets, or rugs. Having cords underneath rugs and furniture is a fire and shock hazard. Make sure to store them safely.
- Not attached to the walls, baseboards, etc. with nails or staples. Nails and staples can damage the cords creating a fire and shock hazard. If cords need to be secured to walls, baseboards, etc. try using plastic adhesive hooks or other methods of attachment that won’t damage the cords.
- Not overloaded. Each extension cord or power bar has a wattage limit, and overloading them can create a fire or shock hazard. Make sure to check the limits of any extension cords or power bars that you may be using to ensure you’re not running too many watts through them.
RUGS, RUNNERS, AND MATS
Believe it or not, rugs and things of the like cause a large amount of falls in the home. They are very easy to trip over, or if they’re not slip resistant and on a slippery floor, it’s almost the same as stepping on ice. The simplest solution is to just get rid of the rugs, runners, and mats entirely, but that’s a lot easier said than done. Some rugs and mats have a functional purpose in the household, so for the one’s that need to stay, it’s important to make sure they are:
- Slip-resistant. Stepping on a rug that isn’t secured to the floor can cause anyone to slip and fall. To prevent this, try using some double-sided adhesive tape to secure a rug or mat to the floor. Another option is to simply buy rugs, runners, and mats that already have slip-resistant backings on them. There is also slip-resistant rubber matting that can be placed underneath any of these things to help prevent slipping as well.
- In good condition. It is also important to remember to check the adhesive tape, rubber matting, etc. to make sure that it is in good shape and doesn’t need replacing. The tape will eventually not want to stick anymore, so it will need to be replaced at some point.
NOTE: Another main reason why it is important to make sure that any rugs, runners, mats, etc. are secured properly, is because it is very easy to flip up the corners or edges of them and trip over them. Not only do they pose a slipping hazard, but also a tripping hazard as well. The goal is to reduce the risk of falls as much as possible.
SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
Regardless of age, everyone needs to have functional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. These detectors can save lives. Often times with smoke, it can be obvious that it is there. It is visible and it has a smell. However, carbon monoxide is invisible and unscented. If exposed to carbon monoxide for long enough, it can cause headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, blurred vision, and even loss of consciousness. It cannot be stressed enough how crucial it is to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in every household. Properly functioning detectors should:
- Be located correctly. There should be one on each floor of the home. The detector should come with instructions on where is best to place it. They should be located away from any vents.
- Have working batteries and bulbs, always. The majority of deaths in the case of a housefire are caused by smoke and toxic gases, rather than by the actual fire.
ELECTRICAL OUTLETS AND SWITCHES
Wiring and lighting are things that exist around us everywhere, everyday. It’s something so mundane that it’s easy to forget how dangerous they can be. Poorly created wiring in a home can be disastrous and can create an unseen threat. That threat being a fire within the walls of the home, that can’t be seen. A lot of times it isn’t even noticed until there is the smell or sight of smoke. These kinds of fires can happen out of nowhere, and if the homeowner isn’t aware of the dangerous wiring situation in the house, it doesn’t have any visible warning signs until it’s too late. Not only can poor wiring create a fire hazard, but overloading outlets and light fixtures can do the same thing. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of fire in the home. These steps include:
- Checking the temperature of outlets or switches. Unusually warm outlets or switches may indicate that there is unsafe wiring present. If this occurs, unplug anything from the outlet and have an electrician come do an inspection.
- Make sure all outlets and switches have cover plates. Cover plates prevent exposed wiring, which is a shock hazard.
- Use the proper wattage of light bulbs. Using a bulb of a wattage that exceeds the maximum limit for a light fixture may lead to fire through overheating. Ceiling fixtures, recessed lights, and “hooded” lamps trap heat. Avoid overheating any light fixtures by making sure to use the right light bulbs. If you are unsure of what the wattage is, use a bulb that is no more than 60 watts.
Having low lighting throughout the house could easily lead to injury. How can you avoid an obstacle if you can’t see it? In any room of the house, bathroom, kitchen, living room, bedroom, etc., it is essential to have efficient lighting. However, as stated before, be sure to use the proper wattage of bulb to prevent fire hazards.
The kitchen is full of tools and appliances that can cause injury. The stove or range is a major one. Cooking with long sleeves, kitchen rags or towels close to the stove, cooking with long hair down, and etc. is a fire hazard. Knives are easy to cut yourself on if not used with caution. Kitchen injuries can include cuts, burns, bruises, falls, and more. The most basic safety tip is to not have anyone in the kitchen that shouldn’t be. If someone doesn’t have the capacity to cook or prepare meals safely, they shouldn’t be in the kitchen trying to do those things, at least without supervision.
Most importantly with the bathroom, is to make sure that there are anti-slip precautions taken, specifically with the tub or shower. It is best to have non-slip mats in the shower or bathtub to prevent falling. Sometimes it will be easier to have a shower chair to use for washing and bathing since it aids in getting someone in and out of the shower. Grab bars are also a great tool used to prevent falls and to assist with movement or transfer. Having a non-slip bathmat outside of the shower or tub is another way to reduce the risk of falling.
With medication, the most important things to keep in mind are organization and location. Medication should be kept in a safe place where they can’t be access by children or someone who can’t take medicine without supervision. Some people need help taking their meds or need someone else to be in charge of their medications, so making sure they are getting the proper doses at the right times of day is very important.
IN THE EVENT OF A FALL
No matter how many precautions are taken to reduce the risk of falls, there’s still a chance that they could happen, unfortunately. In the case that someone falls and is unable to stand back up, having a phone in a place that they can reach could save their life. Also, having any emergency numbers (police, fire department, poison control, neighbor/loved one, etc.) near the phone is helpful as well.