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Hidden Dangers in the Home for Seniors

Hidden-Dangers-In-The-Home-For-Seniors-In-Copy-ImageNine out of ten U.S. seniors prefer to age in place. This is understandable. Whether you are living alone or sharing space with a companion, the sense of independence that comes from staying in the house you’ve long enjoyed is immeasurable.

But there are things in our homes that present hazards as we age, especially as our mobility decreases and our mental agility decreases. Recognizing these potential dangers around our homes – and mitigating them – is an effective way to ensure we can age in place for years to come.

Here are some senior safety tips to consider:

Preventing Illness

  • Proper nutrition can be lacking for some seniors. For instance, they may eat food that’s been left in the refrigerator too long, which can result in food poisoning. Adopting a simple labeling system – such as writing dates on items with a marker and transparent tape – can help prevent this.
  • A pill-taking routine is important. Accidentally missing a dose of medicine can make you woozy, dizzy or worse. If you sometimes forget to take medications, purchase a large pill box that displays the days of the week and fill it up once a week. If you need even more of a nudge, you can purchase audio alarms (or program them right into your smartphone) to remind you when it is time to take medications.
  • Are emergency numbers in plain sight? There should be a list of them close to the phone (or posted somewhere simple, like on the front of the refrigerator).
  • If you use a humidifier, be sure to keep it clean. If you don’t, mold, mildew and bacteria can accumulate and make you sick. If you’ve been using your humidifier for a few weeks – or if it’s been stored in the closet for the off-season – you need to clean it.

Preventing Fires

  • In the kitchen: Be faithful about keeping items away from the stove that do not belong there, such as dish towels, paper towels or the mail. Also, unplug the toaster when it’s not in use. (It’s an inexpensively made appliance with a heating element.)
  • In the bathroom: Hair dryers, curling irons and space heaters should always be unplugged when not in use.
  • Outside your bedroom: It can be difficult (and ill-advised) for senior to climb a ladder or step stool to change smoke detector batteries; instead, ask a younger family member, friend or neighbor to do it for you.
  • In the laundry room: Make it a habit to clean lint out of the lint trap and from behind the washer and dryer. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that dryers are responsible for thousands of fires each year.
  • If you have a fireplace: Opening and closing the flue is critical; failing to open it will fill your house with smoke, and leaving it open all the time will allow warm air to travel up the chimney. You can purchase “Damper Open/Damper Closed” signs that can help remind you to adjust the flue.

Preventing Falls

More than one out of four people over age 65 fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 2.8 million people a year have to visit an emergency room following a fall. There are several things that can be done to help reduce falls in the home:

  • Install grab bars near toilets and near the tub and shower.
  • Anchor any throw rugs with non-skid backing or fasten them down with carpet tape to prevent tripping.
  • Become sensitive to clutter. If it’s on the floor – magazines, newspapers, catalogs, mail – it can be a hazard for seniors.
  • If you have a step stool, make sure it is strong and sturdy and does not wobble. The style with an upper bar to hold onto gives you more stability.
  • Use nightlights in your bedroom, hallways and bathroom.
  • Keep cords (electric cords; charger cables) tucked away, out of common pathways.
  • If you go for walks outside, take two things – a walking stick and your cell phone. It can be scary to fall and have no way to contact someone for help. Plus, a walking stick gives you support on sidewalks that may be crumbling.
  • If you have stairs that lead to a second-story or down to a basement, make sure handrails are on both sides and that they are solidly installed. (This goes for outdoor steps as well). If the stairs are carpeted, be sure the carpet is secure. If the steps are hardwood and all the same color, your depth perception could be compromised. If so, put treads on each step that better identify one step from the next. (You can even paint your steps alternating colors so they are distinguishable.) If your health prevents you from climbing or descending stairs with confidence, you might want to consider installing a stair lift. They are an easily-installed and affordable investment into your own wellbeing.

Want to explore other home safety tips for seniors? Look at 31 Tips for Future Proofing Your Home.