Seniors guide to stay safe at home
No matter what age you are, it’s normal to want to feel safe and secure in your own home. But for seniors, that desire can sometimes be a little stronger.
Each year, millions of older adults are injured in their own homes.1 These injuries involve consumer products and architectural features ranging from doors to footstools to stairs. Injuries can limit activities, cause considerable pain and suffering, may precipitate a decline in general health, and can also contribute to health care costs.
Fortunately, you can avoid potential home injuries with preventative measures such as some of these below:
Flooring materials, rugs, and carpets together account for the highest number of in-house accidents for seniors. Falling can have detrimental effects. According to Learn Not to Fall, falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly. They account for 25% of all hospitalisations, and 40% of all nursing home admissions.2
Falls due to flooring commonly occur when there is a change in surface, such as moving from carpet to tiles. Slight elevation in doorways or rugs can be harmful, and lighting plays a role also.
To ensure flooring is safe, regularly check that:
- lighting is sufficient, offering good visibility of any uneven spots
- carpeting is wall-to-wall and low pile
- carpet edges are tacked down
- carpeting is adequately padded
- throw rugs are securely attached to the floor
- hard floor surfaces are slip-resistant
- floor wax, if used, is a non-skid wax
- spills are cleaned up straight away
- trip hazards are removed
People underestimate just how dangerous doors can be. Common door accidents include walking into a glass door, catching a finger or hand, tripping while closing or opening, or cutting themselves on broken glass panels.
To ensure door areas are safe, regularly check that:
- sliding glass doors have a decal at eye level
- doors are properly installed
- doors swing out of traffic areas and away from other open doors
- fingers and hands are kept clear of hinges
- flexible door stops are attached to the wall
- spring doors don’t swing closed too quickly
- there’s a safe area to place items down when opening doors
- you are using the handle to push open doors rather than a glass panel.
Stairs and steps
Stairs and steps are an obvious hazard to seniors, yet surprisingly, many seniors fail to take stair safety precautions. Just like flooring, steps and stairs cause a huge number of injuries every year and can cause severe injuries. Many of these injuries can result in rapid health decline or even death.
To ensure stairs and steps are safe, regularly check that:
- lighting is sufficient and that all steps can be seen no matter the time of day
- there is a light switch at both the bottom and top of the stairs
- step size and height are consistent
- stairs are free of clutter and debris
- stair treads are dry, not wet or icy
- carpeting is securely attached to all steps
- carpeting is not torn, worn and slippery
- edges of treads are clearly visible
- railings are securely attached to the wall and capable of holding your weight.
Bathtubs and showers
Bathtub and shower injuries occur most often when a person slips on a wet tub or shower surface, or when a bath mat slips out from under them. Falls can also occur when hands slip whilst getting in or out of the bath.
To ensure bathtubs and showers are safe, regularly check:
- bathroom lighting is sufficient and that puddles of water are easily visible
- water temperature controls are installed and working
- non-slip mats are secure
- at least one grab bar is in easy reach and sturdy
- the temperature before stepping into the bath or shower.
Many older adults suffer injuries when windows are difficult to open or risky to clean and glass in windows is among the more common building features involved in accidents on domestic premises.3
To ensure windows are safe, regularly check that:
- windows open easily (if not you could consider an electric window-opening device)
- screens are secure but removable
- projecting windows open away from walkways and recreation areas
- open windows are shielded with shrubs (to prevent bumping into).
Safe verandah steps are an essential part of living accident-free in your home, not only are verandah falls common, but they can often be the most damaging due to their hard surface.
To ensure verandahs are kept safe, regularly check that:
- verandah steps are level, stable and in good condition
- hand rails are in good condition (if you don’t have hand rails, consider installing some)
- abrasive strips are installed to each step
- lighting is sufficient and that the steps and verandah is clearly illuminated
- steps are modified to support a walker if walking requires one.
Preventative measures such as these could reduce home accidents experienced by older adults by as much as 53%, yet 89% of elders admit to having done nothing to prepare their homes for ageing.4
House break-ins are one of the most common crimes, and unfortunately, the elderly are often the selected victims. Often these crimes come from opportunity, with the thief gaining entry through an unlocked door or window.
For some, the fear of being victimised is so great that they become isolated in their own home. Too afraid to invite others in and too nervous to answer the door, they become lonely, dejected and detached from the world.
To ensure this doesn’t happen and that your home is secure, you can:
- make it as difficult as possible for a thief to gain entry
- install and use key-operated locks on doors and windows
- refrain from leaving a spare key outdoors
- consider installing an alarm system
- install a peephole in your door
- make sure alarms are working
- reduce temptation by not showcasing your most valuable assets and by engraving or microdotting all items of value
- keeping cash, valuables and keys out of sight
- only listing your initials in the phone book
- refrain from highlighting that you live alone (such as “Sorry I can’t get to the phone right now”)
- install sensor lights
- not give away personal details on social media
- not share personal information with strangers
- ensure smoke alarms are working
- report any suspicious activity straight away
4 Nov 2016