When you think of home, what comes to mind is a place of rest, of comfort, of peace, serenity and joy in a safe home environment.
Sadly, your home may have more than a dozen hidden hazards that can turn your peace upside down at the blink of an eye.
And seniors, especially those 65+, are more susceptible because of their failing eyesight, wobbly legs, poor balance and diminished cognitive functions.
Skeptical? Here are some startling figures that will make you look at home safety precautions more seriously, make you think otherwise:
o In 2009 in England and Wales alone, over 7,475 people aged over 65 died
from home accidents, 49% of which were due to falls; – rospa.com
o According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), millions of people,
65+, suffer a fall. It estimates that one out of three elderly falls each year, but not all tell their doctors about it. – cdc.gov
Home accidents involving elderly people have become a great concern for government institutions, and society at large, because some of these are preventable and avoidable.
But because of complacency, carelessness, or ignorance, millions end up in hospital ERs all over the world, or died untimely.
These simple tips are meant to help you do better so that you won’t become a figure in this ghastly statistics.
Most common home safety threats and how to mitigate them:
1. List down all emergency numbers:
Have all the contact numbers of your children, close relatives, 911, poison control, fire department, your personal doctor, or a suicide help center.
Put the list in your wallet or some secure and easily accessible place. Or put them into your phone’s Contact list.
If you are hi-tech savvy, load Apps in your phone so you can get in touch with them fast and easy.
2. Check possible sources of falls:
Your home can have more than a dozen sources of falls you are not aware of:
Frayed floor carpets, lamp stands, wobbly dining table chairs, stepladders, welcome rug on your porch, too high cabinets or cupboards, extension wires across your living room, stools you occasional use to sit or stand on, etc. the list can go on.
Don’t take them lightly. Even if you can move around your home with eyes closed, the threat of a fall is never far away if your legs, eyes, and balance are weak.
Attend to these things before it is too late.
o Sleep in the ground floor, not in the second, if possible;
o Have handholds along the walls of your home – from your living room, kitchen, to your bedroom;
o Secure the carpet edges to the floor, or remove it. It is just a good place for dust and mites that can give you discomfort or allergy;
o Put shoes and books where they should;
o Keep your food items on your kitchen counter top so you won’t have to reach up when you need them.
3. Identify possible sources of fire:
In 2010, 143 people died in the U.K., due to fire-related accidents.
Home fires are normally caused by faulty electrical wiring, overloaded electrical outlets, using inferior plugs and sockets, unplugged electric appliance, smoldering cigarette butts, oily rugs thrown near a hot source, failure to turn off the gas, etc;
To remove these potential hazards:
o Use certified wires, sockets, plugs and outlets;
o Turn off appliances before going out or going to bed; properly store flammable items, don’t overload sockets;
o Install smoke alarms in your home and make sure they are functional;
o Have fire extinguishers in your bedroom, living room and dining room And be sure you know how to use them or that they are always fully charged;
o Don’t attempt to douse a fire if it has already started. Get out of the house and call 911.
4. Burns and scalds:
Burns and scalds can come from radiators, cookers, kettles, hot bath, or even a cup of hot chocolate you drink before going to bed at night.
Don’t take this lightly. Contact burns among people over 65 can be fatal if they get infected.
To avoid this risk,
o Do not take hot drinks more than you need to;
o Arrange your tea or coffee utensils as near to each other as possible.
o Handle your cooking utensils with extreme care;
o Use gloves all the time when working around hot items in the kitchen;
o When taking a shower, always turn on the cold water first, before slowly turning on the hot water knob to prevent burning.
5. Is your bathroom safe?
Bathrooms, as small as they are, are big when it comes to home accidents.
Accidents happen around the toilets, shower stalls, and bathtubs.
To avoid these risks, be sure to:
o Use non-skid mats;
o Have grab bars installed;
o Set the thermostat no higher than 120 deg F to minimize the risk of scalding;
o Use special chairs if you have difficulty getting in and out of toilets and bathtubs;
o Have your cell phone nearby to dial an emergency number should you need to.
6. Get rid of toxic substances:
Seniors are especially prone to poisoning because of weaker immune system and lower metabolism.
Accidental poisoning or drug overdose happens if you have no adequate knowledge of your prescription drugs, or taking drugs not meant for you.
Storing partially opened canned goods too long in the ref can also cause food poisoning.
Don’t’ stretch your food budget too thin to eat stale or moldy foods. This can give you food poisoning, too.
To help avoid this home risk:
o Always wash hands before working around food;
o Avoid recycling food that has been in the ref for more than two days;
o When buying canned goods, always check their expiry dates;
o Don’t store canned goods in partially opened cans;
o Throw away moldy fruits and other food stuff;
Regarding your medications:
o Always buy from credible and reputable pharmacies;
o When asking for prescriptions, ask your doctor possible adverse reactions with other medications you are talking;
o Never experiment with drugs. Be sure you are taking what is prescribed by a doctor, not suggested by a friend;
o Don’t take medications of others just because you have the same illness. Different people react to medications differently.
Last year I ate something at dinner that gave me a severe case of food poising. I had diarrhea starting 5am in the morning, until late in the afternoon. Every hour on the hour, I had to rush to the toilet to discharge.
It subsided when my daughter and son-in-law, both doctors, IV-fed me with saline solution.
Last night, while attending the wake of an aunt who died four days ago from a bad fall, I met a young girl who was also attending the wake of a neighbor.
She was already in her 60s, alone at home, and died from a fall while using the bathroom.
When relatives found her she was already bluish, with a large gash on her head.
No matter how safe you feel at home, accidents can happen at the most unexpected time and circumstances.
The safety of home can easily turn into a disaster; your retirement days can easily be cut short by a sudden fall, a stale food, or a smoldering cigarette butt on your mattress as you slowly drift into sleep.
Please share your latest home accident to rouse other seniors from their complacency.