June is National Safety Month, but safety is always a priority for families caring for a senior. Older people are especially vulnerable to accidents in the home, including burn injuries, falls and overdoses. Here’s how you can keep your home safe for your elderly loved one.
Burn injuries are common in older people because of forgetfulness or lack of sensitivity to heat. If your loved one suffers from dementia or is no longer in control of his motor function, he should not be allowed to cook. Even boiling water can be dangerous if forgotten and allowed to boil over.
All fire sources should be kept far away from furniture and curtains. This includes candles, matches, hot plates and cigarettes. And the temperature in the hot water heater should be set to no more than 120 degrees.
There should be a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors alarms throughout the house. Don’t forget to have them checked periodically to ensure they are still working.
Throw rugs are a hazard for the elderly, since they tend to move exactly as you are stepping on them. If you must have throw rugs, tape or tack them to the floor so they stay in place.
Insufficient lighting is another cause of falls. Night lights and table lamps should be left on in strategic places even at night when other lights have been turned off. Check for dark corners and add extra lighting, so there are no dangerous areas.
Stairs should be clear of clutter and should have handrails, preferably on both sides, and good lighting. Bathrooms should be equipped with grab bars and non-slip mats in the bath/shower and on the floor. It’s important to wipe up spills in the bathroom and keep the floor dry at all times.
Always measure medicine doses carefully and put the medication away in a hard-to-reach location when not in use. Pay attention to expiry dates on packaging and discard old medicine. Home health aides are not allowed to administer medicine. Consider hiring a nurse to take on this job and ensure your loved one is getting the right medications at the right time. If you’re administering the medicine yourself, make sure you understood and have a written record of what should be taken when and under what conditions.
Wishing you a safe and healthy month and year!