For caregivers tending to older adults and adults living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, taking measures to ensure safety at home is an important. A few of the most common accidents involving elderly adults are falls, burns, and poisonings. From having emergency numbers on hand to taking measures to avoid bathroom hazards, learn more about what you can do to prevent accidents and help your loved ones stay safe at home.
Provide Easy Access to Emergency Numbers
Keep a list of emergency numbers in an accessible spot near each phone in the house. Make sure information and numbers are written clearly and in large enough print to be legible if you are in a hurry or an emergency. The list should include 911, Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222, contact information for a family member or friend in case of emergency, and any healthcare providers’ office numbers.
Take Measures to Prevent Falls
Make sure your loved ones are safe at home by helping to minimize their risk of falling. One in four older adults fall each year, resulting in hip fractures, broken bones and head injuries among others. Does your loved one have difficulty with walking or balance, or have they fallen in the past year? Even if you haven’t noticed any difficulties, all new clients at Coleman Adult Day Care receive a fall risk assessment to determine if proactive fall prevention practices are implemented in our monitoring. From this assessment, we help clients and their loved ones prevent falls with a plan for prevention and progress – this plan can involve recommendations for monitoring, physical therapy or an exercise program to help prevent falls.
If your loved one has fallen before, a special alarm that they can wear as a bracelet or necklace is helpful in the event of a fall or injury. If a fall prevents the elderly adult from accessing the phone, they can instead push a button on the alarm to call emergency services and get the help they need. With your loved one’s permission, installing a motion-activated security camera in the home can also be a useful tool for elderly adults.
Safety-proof your home to prevent falls by making sure all hallways, stairs, and paths are well lit and clear of objects. Individuals at risk for falling should always use rails and banisters when walking on stairs, and well-fitting, non-slip footwear when walking on smooth floors or potentially slippery surfaces. Slippers with rubber/no-slip bottoms or flat, thin-soled shoes are appropriate choices. Refrain from placing rugs at the bottom or top of stairs, and make sure all area rugs are secured or taped to the floor so they do not move when walked on.
If your loved one also has a cane or a walker, make sure they are using it at all times! Oftentimes older adults neglect using these for assistance and instead rely on holding onto walls and furniture for balance while walking. This only increases the risk of a fall or other injury. In other situations, older adults may rush to answer a ringing phone and experience a fall. To prevent this from happening, make sure your loved one has a cordless or cell phone within reach or lets the answering machine pick up if they aren’t near the phone.
Help Prevent Risk of Poisoning
Safety-proofing your house to minimize health risks, including the risk of poisoning, is another important way you can help protect loved ones who are elderly or living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Carbon monoxide, household cleaning products and medications can all lead to poisoning.
To prevent carbon monoxide from leaking in your home, a deadly gas that you cannot see or smell, never attempt to use your stove, oven, or grill to heat your home. Having a carbon monoxide detector near all bedrooms is an easy way to monitor and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Detector batteries should be tested and replaced two times per year. It’s also important to make sure all cleaning products are in a designated place to prevent poisoning and accidental ingestion. Mixing bleach, ammonia, or other cleaning liquids together when you are cleaning can create deadly gases, so make sure this is also avoided.
Finally, having medications in your home is necessary, but so is making sure they are administered safely. To prevent medication mix-ups, make sure to keep all medications in their original containers with the appropriate labels. Upon request, your pharmacist can put large-print labels on your loved ones’ prescription medications to make them easier to read. To further prevent any issues with medications, take medications in a well-lit room. For adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s, having clearly marked pill containers for each time of day (if necessary) and day of the week filled by a family member or another caretaker can help prevent inaccurate dosing of medications.
Minimize Risk of Fire and Other Related Dangers
In the event of a fire, don’t try to put it out. Make sure your loved one knows at least two ways to get out of your apartment or home so that you can leave immediately and call 911. Taking measures to prevent fires from happening is also important. Never smoke in bed or leave candles burning in an empty room. In the colder months, make sure heaters are at least 3 feet away from anything in your home that can burn, including curtains, bedding, and furniture, and turn off space heaters when you leave the room.
While cooking, refrain from wearing loose clothes or clothes with long sleeves. In the kitchen, laundry room or other areas with appliances, make sure to replace any appliances that have fraying or damaged electrical cords. Putting too many electric cords into one socket or extension cord is another preventable fire hazard. To ensure you are alerted in the event that a fire does occur, smoke detectors should be installed throughout your home with batteries replaced twice a year.
Avoid Bathroom Hazards
Using the bathroom and taking showers are other possible safety risks for elderly adults. Risks include falls, injury and burns. To prevent fall risks while getting in and out of the shower, place non-slip rubber mats in the bathtub and install grab bars in the shower. Grab bars are also useful near the toilet to make getting around easier and safer.
If your loved one still had a hard time accessing the shower or toilet, special tub chairs/benches and raised toilet seats help make the bathroom more accessible. A frameless walk-in shower with a sloped floor instead of a step-over threshold is a much safer option for elderly adults. Also, to prevent scalding and burns, check that your home’s thermostat on the water heater is set no higher than 120° F.
Contact us the experts at Coleman Adult Day to ask any questions you have about eliminating home safety hazards so that your elderly loved ones can thrive in the comforts of home!