A Guide to Senior Home Safety
Houses can present risks to senior safety. Tall bathtubs, area rugs and uneven floors can be dangerous tripping hazards. Stove burners can set fire to kitchen rags and start a blaze. Steep staircases can lead to terrible falls. These are simple elements of a house that you may not think about until they cause an emergency.
If you’re a senior, or if you’re living with aging parents, and you want to make your house much safer, you should read this practical guide for senior home safety. It will show you how to lower the risks of trips, falls and house fires. It will also give you useful tips on how to prepare for emergencies, like getting evacuation chairs for stairs on each floor.
Preventing Trips and Falls
The Canadian Institute for Health Information found that trips and falls were the biggest causes of injury-related hospitalizations for seniors. The data showed that 4 out of 5 injury-related hospitalizations were due to falls.
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to trips and falls. As you age, your bone density decreases. It could decrease so much that you develop osteoporosis, a condition that makes your bones brittle, fragile and easy to fracture. A single fall could lead to a broken hip or ankle.
As you get older, it is also harder to heal from injuries like broken bones. You will need a lengthy recovery. Longer recovery times come with a higher risk of complications like muscular atrophy and pneumonia — which can be life-threatening.
The good news is that trips and falls are largely preventable inside the home. You can make changes around the house to minimize tripping and falling hazards and keep everyone safe from unnecessary injuries.
Your stairwells can pose a serious risk for slips and falls. One way to avoid this risk is to move your bedroom to the ground floor of the house and avoid making too many trips up and downstairs. Unfortunately, this isn’t a realistic plan that most homeowners can achieve.
As a simple alternative, follow these tips to make your staircases safer:
- Add secure railings to every staircase. Ideally, you should have a railing on each side of the staircase.
- Install more lighting above or along the staircases so that you can clearly see the steps.
- Add grip tape or safety carpet treads along each stair to keep your feet from slipping.
Another common place for trips and falls is the bathroom. The water from the sink, shower and tub can make the tile floor slick and dangerous.
These are some things that you can do to make the room safer:
- Install grab rails beside the tub, shower and toilet for additional stability.
- Place anti-slip mats inside and outside of the tub/shower.
- If you have mobility issues, replace your bathtub with an accessible model.
The remaining floors in your house can also be a senior safety risk, especially when they’re covered in tripping hazards, like extension cords, misplaced shoes and dirty laundry. Run extension cords along walls. Move shoes to shoe racks and dirty laundry into hampers. Keeping your floors clean and clear of any clutter is crucial.
These are some more things you can do to make your floors safer:
- Fix transitions between rooms so that they’re completely level. You shouldn’t need to take a step up or down to cross the threshold.
- Don’t decorate with area rugs — these can be tripping hazards. Only use anti-slip mats.
- Install senior-friendly flooring around your house. These will be easier to walk on and move mobility aids over.
Preventing House Fires
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to house fires because they are more likely to struggle to evacuate buildings quickly. Rushing out of the house could cause you to stumble and injure yourself — this is not something you want to do when surrounded by smoke and flames.
You can make preparations that will help you safely evacuate your house during a fire. But, before you do that, you should take steps to prevent fires from starting in the first place. These are some things that you can do to protect your house from fires:
- If you have a working fireplace, you should get your chimney cleaned and inspected once per year. An annual cleaning will prevent creosote build-up — this can cause house fires.
- Replace gas stoves with induction stoves. A poorly placed kitchen rag or sleeve can catch fire on a gas burner and cause a disaster. Induction stovetops come with minimal risks of fires since they only heat the cookware on the hobs.
- Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed around the house. If you have hearing trouble, get smoke alarms with strobe lights to give you a visual warning of an active fire. You can also get appliances like pillow shakers — these use vibrations to wake you up when smoke alarms go off.
Preparing for Emergencies
The last step that you should follow in this senior home safety guide is to prepare for emergencies. Make preparations for emergencies that require evacuation (for example, house fires) and emergencies that require sheltering in place (for example, winter storms). How can you do that?
If you have mobility issues, evacuating your home can be risky. To ensure that you get out of the house quickly and safely, you should get an Evacuscape evacuation chair. It’s an incredibly useful senior safety tool to have in your home.
How does it work? In an emergency, a helper (whether it is a family member, at-home caregiver or first responder) will retrieve the chair. After you sit in the chair, the helper will secure you with the safety straps. Then they can guide the chair up/downstairs and towards the safest exit.
These are some other things that you can do to prepare for emergencies:
- If you have a landline, don’t get rid of it. A landline will continue to work during a power outage. You could use it to call for help in an emergency.
- Always have fully-stocked emergency kits in your house and vehicles.
- Read and follow these other emergency planning tips.
Follow the steps in this senior home safety guide as soon as possible. It could protect you and the other seniors in your life.