Even in senior communities such as Lake Park, where safety considerations have been carefully designed into each living space, additional steps can be taken to ensure a safe home environment. A home safety checklist is a great tool to assess your living space and determine any potential safety hazards. Although injuries are more likely to occur in bathrooms and on stairs, safety hazards are present in every area of the home. As you go through this checklist, it’s important that you document each safety concern and then take the necessary measures to remedy each one.
Falls are high on the list of safety concerns for many older adults and their families. Falls are, in fact, the leading cause of injuries for older adults. Consider these statistics:
- According to the National Institute on Aging, thirty-three percent of all Americans who are 65 and older will experience a fall each year. Since many falls go unreported, that number could be substantially higher. Ten percent of those will result in serious injury.
- For people over the age of 65, falls are responsible for eighty-seven percent of all fractures
- For those over the age of 65, falls are the second leading cause of brain injury and spinal cord injury
- For older adults, falls are the most common cause of non-fatal trauma-related hospital admissions. An older adult is treated in the emergency room as the result of a fall every eleven seconds.
- An older adult dies as the result of a fall every 19 minutes, making it the leading cause of fatal injuries. Half of all accidental deaths in the home are caused by a fall. For people between 65 and 84 years of age, falls are the second leading cause of injury-related death. For those 85 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death.
- Hip fractures are the most serious fall-related fracture and lead to the largest number of deaths and health problems
- Fifty percent of older adults over the age of 65 who are hospitalized for a hip fracture are unable to live independently or to return home
- Forty percent of nursing home admissions are the result of a fall
- For people 70 and older, falls are the sixth leading cause of death
Although an injury can occur in any number of ways, for seniors, falls tend to be the biggest culprit.
Falls and fear of falling impacts the lives of many older adults causing them to limit their social engagements and activities. This can lead to social isolation, depression, physical decline and feelings of helplessness.
To prevent trips and falls throughout your home:
- Make sure all cords are secured out of the way to eliminate tripping hazards. Consider telephone cords, lamp and light cords, and especially any extension cords that are in use. Do not run cords under rugs.
- Remove low coffee tables, footrests and any other items that are low to the ground
- Keep floors, hallways and stairs free of clutter
- Remove all unnecessary rugs and carpets
- Check all carpets and rugs to ensure they’re flat and level. Any that have curled edges or tend to bunch up should be replaced
- All carpets, rugs and bath mats should have a non-slip backing
- Eliminate or repair furniture that is loose or wobbly
- Add rubber tips to any walkers and canes
- Install automatic nightlights throughout the home especially in low light areas such as hallways. Make sure bulbs are replaced when they burn out
It’s important that older adults take adequate fire safety measures. According to FEMA, people age 65 and over are 2.7 times more likely to die in a residential fire than the general population. More specifically, those between 65 and 74 are almost twice as likely to die in a residential fire. But, by the time someone reaches the age of 84, the risk is 4.6 times greater. According to FEMA, the risk of dying in a house fire is cut in half in homes with a working smoke detector.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that a smoke alarm be installed inside every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Want more information? Check out this fire safety quiz. The U.S. Fire Administration states that smoke detectors should be tested at least once a month and the batteries replaced at least once or twice a year.
Ashtrays, candles, hot plates and other potential fire sources should be kept away from flammable materials such as beds, bedding, furniture and curtains. Cigarettes and candles should never be left unattended.
Many accidents occur in the kitchen. Food that is cooking on top of the stove should never be left unsupervised. Always keep a sturdy step-stool with a handrail close by to use when reaching up onto shelves or into high cabinets.
Let’s look at what else you can do to make your kitchen safer.
- You should have a well-maintained fire extinguisher in the kitchen that is less than ten years old.
- Keep the area around the stove free of clutter, especially of items that can easily catch fire such as potholders, towels and grease
- Check placement of all countertop appliances. Are they all protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters? Are the appliances and their cords kept away from water (near the sink) and kept from hot surfaces (such as the stove)?
- Date all items in the refrigerator with an expiration date using a large black marker. Check expirations dates weekly
- Keep a stool handy to sit on while doing dishes or preparing food
- Keep commonly used items on lower and easy to reach shelves
- Keep tools handy that make opening jars and bottles easier
The bathroom is where most injuries occur in the home. Here are a few items that should be addressed to ensure bathroom safety.
- Showers and tubs should be equipped with a non-slip surface or mat
- Keep a bath or shower seat available for use
- Use a bath mat that has a non-slip backing to prevent slips
- Make sure outlets have a ground-fault protection system (GFCI) that is in working order
- Grab bars should be installed beside bathtubs and the toilets
- Keep a light turned on in the bathroom at night
Even bedrooms can be made safer. Be sure to keep a phone near the bed. If you do not have a cell phone that you keep with you, make sure to keep a land-line phone on your nightstand.
- Have a light that is easy to reach beside your bed
- If you wear glasses, keep them within easy reach of the bed and put them on every time you get out of bed
- The path you take from the bed to the nearest bathroom should be well-lit. Consider using nightlights to light the way if you have concerns about waking others when you get up in the middle of the night. Keep the path clear of clutter to make navigation easier and safer.
- Keep a sturdy chair with arms in the bedroom to make dressing easier
- Know where flashlights are kept in the home, especially in the bedroom. Keep one handy in the drawer of your nightstand for easy use in the event of a power outage.
- Don’t smoke in bed
- If getting out of bed is difficult, install a bed rail to make it easier. You can also use bed risers to raise the bed to a more safe and comfortable height to make it easier to get in and out of bed.
Stairs can prove to be dangerous for older adults. If you have any interior or exterior stairs, be sure to take the following stair safety precautions:
- Stairs should not be used to store items. Keep the clear at all times
- Stair areas should be well-lit so you can clearly see each step
- Stairs should have a functional and sturdy handrail
- If carpet or tread on stairs is worn, it should be replaced immediately to prevent falls
- Outdoor steps should have abrasive safety strips, especially if made of a slick when wet surface like wood
Wrapping Things Up …
Home safety is something that everyone should take seriously, but is especially important for older adults. Accidents can occur anywhere in the home, so it makes sense to do all you can to make your home as safe as possible.
We value our residents and want them to be safe and secure when living with us. That’s why we invite you to come check us out and see for yourself what living at Lake Park is all about. Our community offers an active, maintenance-free lifestyle in beautiful downtown Oakland, California. Contact us to learn more.