Common in-home safety hazards can lead to falls, slips, fires and many other life-threatening accidents. Seniors are especially prone to get hurt from these common hazards at home.
It is important for family members and live-in caregivers to regularly check to identify any home safety hazards and take steps to mitigate them. They can also bring in professionals for home safety inspections and to identify ways to senior-proof homes and reduce potential hazards and risks.
Here are a few common home safety hazards for seniors and how to fix them :
1. Bathroom Safety Hazards and Fixes
Bathroom safety hazards, such as slipping on soap or water, are among the most common safety hazards at home for the elderly. More attention is needed to avoid bathroom hazards as the seniors can be alone in this space. Here are a few fixes that can be done in bathrooms to avoid any accidents:
- Install grab bars: Most elderly injuries take place in washrooms when they slip but have nothing to hang on to save themselves or break a fall. Grab bars can help avoid this.
- Use non-slip mats and stools: In the bathing area or a tub, use a non-slip or adhesive mat to make it less slippery for the elderly. The use of non-slip showering stools or benches can be another quick safety fix for the bathing area.
- Elevate the toilet: An elevated toilet can make it easier for seniors with mobility issues to get up without slipping in the bathroom.
- Use handheld showerheads: Using handheld showerheads can help seniors or their caregivers clean properly without having to move around too much.
- Check for hot water: Skin thins and becomes more sensitive to exposure to high water temperatures as we age. Seniors also have a decreased ability to sense if water is too cold or hot. Make sure that the water heater thermostat is set below 48 degrees celsius and get anti-scald valves installed in showers and sinks by professional handymen.
In addition, seniors with high fall risk should not be left alone in the washroom. Professional caregivers can be hired and can assist the elderly with bathing, toileting and other bathroom-related activities.
2. Poor Lighting Hazards and Fixes
Poor lighting hazards occur when seniors, with poor vision due to age or disease, cannot see properly due to shadows or dim light. Lighting hazards can cause trips and falls which can be deadly. Proper lighting in common rooms such as bedrooms, hallways and kitchens can reduce many risks, especially for elders living on their own.
Here are a few tips:
- Use high lumen bulbs with cooler degrees (5000-500 kelvin degrees) for proper lighting. They give maximum light coverage and light up dark corners around the house.
- Keep the house well-lit with small nightlights in the hallways leading to the kitchen or bathroom.
- Keep a flashlight within arm’s reach so that the loved one isn’t moving around blindly and injuring themselves during power outages.
- Have switches for stair lights on both ends so the elderly don’t have to climb up or down to turn on or off the lights.
- In the bedroom, install a side lamp or a nightlight to help if the senior wakes up at night for a trip to the bathroom.
- If a family employs a professional caregiver, they can ensure that the house is properly lit and all the bulbs and light fixtures are in working order.
3. Kitchen Hazards and Fixes
The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in any household. It can also be a source of many hazards. Here are a few tips to minimize risks and accidents for seniors in the kitchen.
- Make regular-use items easier to reach. An older person can have limited mobility which makes it difficult to reach for items, especially those placed at a height.
- Check if the large appliances such as stoves and refrigerators are properly installed. Otherwise, they can tilt and fall resulting in serious injuries to the elder.
- Use an electric stove instead of a gas burner to reduce the risk of fire.
- Cover and put away any sharp objects such as knives. Seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s can easily hurt themselves with these objects.
- Improperly installed or faulty gas stoves, ovens, heaters, dryers and vent hoods can lead to carbon monoxide buildup, which can be fatal. Replacing gas appliances with electric ones, and making sure that the kitchen is properly ventilated can reduce this risk, It is also critical to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed in the kitchen and across the house.
If a household employs a professional caregiver, they can help by taking over kitchen duties reducing related hazards and risks for the seniors.
4. Fire Hazards and Fixes
There are around 25,000 fire-related accidents in Canada every year. Older Canadian adults are two and half times more likely to die or be injured in a house fire than other populations. Household fires can start while cooking in the kitchens, from overheated appliances, short-circuited light fixtures and more.
Here are a few tips for identifying and mitigating fire risks in a home:
- Install fire alarms and smoke detectors all over the house, especially in the kitchen. Replace their batteries every 6 months. Make sure they are in working order by checking them regularly.
- Place small-sized fire extinguishers in the kitchen, hallways and other areas around the house, especially near fire hazards. They should be easy to use for seniors.
- Don’t overload the electrical sockets with heavy appliances. Use separate sockets for each appliance.
- Unplug the appliances when not in use and put them away properly to avoid tripping on their cords. Seniors are prone to tripping especially if they have weak vision.
- Regularly check appliance and extension cords for exposed wires. Replace them as soon as possible as they can start fires or cause electrocution.
- Avoid using candles or place them away from curtains and decorative items.
- Don’t leave the stove unattended if cooking on high heat.
- In case a house has chimneys and dryer exhausts, they need to be cleaned professionally. They can accumulate substances over time that can catch fire.
- In winter, keep heaters away from clothes, blankets or any material which can catch fire.
- Keep flammable substances away from the kitchen and open flames.
If a family employs a professional caregiver, they can ensure that the house is safe by identifying and removing any fire hazards, taking over duties such as cooking and making sure that smoke and fire alarms are maintained properly. All these are a part of the senior home care services in Oakville.
5. Living Room Hazards and Fixes
Living rooms are high-use areas for seniors and can be another place of senior injuries. . Here are a few helpful tips to identify and mitigate living room hazards:
- Make sure that all furniture items are stable and secure.
- Remove rugs or glue them to the floor to avoid trips and fractures.
- Large screen televisions are heavy and can tip over. Bolt them securely to the wall or put them on a proper table.
- Living rooms are filled with cords. Seniors can trip and fall over cords. Tack the cords properly to the walls and away from walking areas.
- Add railings and grab bars where needed.
6. External Hazards and Fixes
Accidents don’t just happen inside the home. There are safety hazards outside the house also. Here are a few potential hazards outside the home and tips on how to avoid them:
- During snow season, have a professional come and clear up the walkway of snow to avoid slipping.
- On the outside of the house, paint edges and narrow stairs with contrasting colours to help seniors see them clearly in dim lighting.
- Improve traction of walking surfaces by using non-slip paints and coatings on them.
- Add path lights around walkways. The lights help avoid tripping and reduce the risks of falling and serious injuries.
- Clear any clutter along the pathways.
- Install banisters along all outside stairs.
- Make sure that any boards on stairs are not rotten, cracked or missing pieces. Replace and install new boards to avoid hazards to keep safe.
- Put away sharp gardening tools such as shears and rakes to avoid seniors stepping on or tripping over them.
Common household hazards can be avoided through regular safety inspections and getting professionals to repair, maintain and replace faulty appliances and fixtures.
Live-in caregivers can significantly reduce the safety risks for vulnerable seniors by identifying safety risks, taking over high-risk activities and helping seniors with mobility around the house.
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