Staying Safe At Home

Updated on November 24, 2017

Most experts agree that it’s best for older people to stay in their homes for as long as possible. That’s largely because of the mental and emotional benefits these people attain by remaining in comfortable and familiar surroundings. Yet as people get older, the risk of accidental injury increases, so both to protect older homeowners and give their loved ones additional peace of mind, it’s often important to make a few adjustments in the home and in the person’s daily activities.

Like many life changes, these adjustments are rather small when taken individually. But when taken collectively, they make a significant difference, often extending the older person’s in-home stay for many years.

Poison Prevention

In 2015, drug overdose surpassed motor vehicle crashes to become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, so this problem is very acute.

Among seniors, many overdoses occur because their doctors do not know about all the medications they take. Tell your doctor everything, including over-the-counter medicines, herbal supplements, and so on. Be sure and honestly report on tobacco, alcohol, and other recreational substance use as well. Finally, strictly adhere to the label. Take these medicines exactly as recommended or prescribed, and if you have any side effects, call your doctor straight away.

As well, ask the pharmacist to print large-font labels that are easier to read, be careful not to mix up medicines if you use a pill container, and always take medication in a well-lit room.

Fall Prevention

If you take no other corrective action as a result of this article (and hopefully that’s not the case), make some lifestyle changes to prevent falls. These incidents are arguably the most significant threat to independent living, as half of hip fracture patients over 65 either never come home from the hospital or, at the very least, can never live on their own again.

While they are among the most serious injuries that befall senior adults, they are also among the most preventable injuries.

  • Undergo a medical fall risk assessment if you have balance issues or have fallen any time within the last year.

  • Consider yoga, tai chi, or some other form of exercise that improves balance.

  • Many people have laughed at those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” TV commercials, but the medical alert devices these advertisements promoted fill a very significant need. If the device has an embedded sensor that automatically trips the alarm if the wearer falls, that’s even better.

  • It may seem like a small thing, but do not rush to answer the phone, because many falls occur when the person is in a hurry. Let the machine pick up instead.

  • If prescribed, always use a cane or walker. Never hold onto walls for balance or grab furniture for help in getting up or sitting down.

There are also some physical changes that can help prevent falls. Be sure there are non-slip floor mats and other protective items in the bathroom. In many cases, it’s also a good idea to stay safe with shower chairs for elderly adults. In other rooms of the house, ensure that all mats are securely taped down, there is plenty of light throughout the house (especially at the tops and bottoms of stairs), and there is little or no clutter on the floor.

Fire Prevention

If any size fire breaks out in your home or apartment, never try to put it out yourself. Instead, leave the dwelling immediately and call 911.

Also, remember all basic physical precautions. For example, use caution with space heaters and plugged-in appliances that have frayed or worn cords, never smoke in bed or allow candles to burn unattended, and avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes during food preparation.

Personal Safety

Keep all doors and windows locked, and never let an unknown person into the house if you are by yourself. Furthermore, it’s important to be aware of other forms of abuse as well. Discuss financial matters with a friend or loved one, consider upgrading security features on online accounts, and always ask for written reports about charities and other such businesses.

Remaining in the home is perhaps one of the best ways to extend quality of life, as long as your senior is in the safest possible environment.

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