Making an Elder's Home Safer Against Fires and Falls
1/12/2012 10:34 AM
It’s a subject I come back to frequently, because each year almost a million adults over age 65 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries in their own homes. Many of these injuries could have been prevented. Just as you never wanted to get F’s in school, you do not want these two F’s in an older adult’s home. These are preventable: Falls and Fires. If you are a caregiver to a senior living independently, please give this a read...and grade appropriately.
Regarding fires, some of the places at home that would have been safe when a person was younger can become life-threatening hazards as one becomes older. Older parents may be living in older homes and feeling some of the draft and cold that were never problems when they were younger, so they do the obvious. They place space heaters in specific locations in the house where they may feel drafts and cold. As a rule, that may not be a real problem. But recall from some of my earlier postings that older adults are not as nimble on their feet and stray cords or the heaters themselves may be obstacles as they move from room to room.
- When you are in an older parent’s house look for stoves or heaters that
might be knocked over or may have been placed too near flammable materials like
rugs or curtains. These are no longer rugs or curtains; they are kindling.
- Make note of sockets that may be the old two-pronged variety when the plugs
have graduated to three prongs. If your parent is plugging in, make sure
the third prong is grounded by attaching the wire to the screw of the box; do
not use adapters without grounding.
- In the kitchen, take a closer look at gas stoves. It is estimated that
almost three in four people who die of clothing fires are over age 65; help an
older parent be aware of the hazard of loose-fitting clothes around cooking
- And finally, where there is smoke, there may be fire. Make sure that chimneys are clear for ventilation. Any fireplace that has been used for a lifetime may also be a depository for creosote. Help your elder avoid the trapped poisonous fumes that may back up from plugged chimneys.
FALLS: Older parents still want to be self-sufficient, but be aware of what they may use to reach higher or out-of-reach places. Chairs, boxes or other makeshift household items to reach high shelves or ceiling fixtures are an invitation to gravity.
- Consider buying a step stool with grip rails and sturdy steps for your older
parent. And make sure that if they already have a stool that all the
screws and bolts are tightened and that as they use the stool they step in the
middle of the steps. Get rid of stools with broken parts.
- And falls do not have to be from extreme heights. Look to your older adult’s gait. If
they are shuffling and not picking up their feet, remove scatter rugs or other
floor coverings that can pose trip hazards.
- It may even be time to have grip rails installed along hallways or in darkened access routes to bedrooms or bathrooms and on stairs.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to Charlotte Bishop.