22 May 2019

Home Safety Checklist for Seniors

Home Safety Checklist for Seniors

An increasing number of seniors are choosing to continue living in their own homes, rather than going into a care home. One of the main reasons for this is that many older people - and their relatives - believe that continuing to live in their own home will aid their wellbeing, whereas moving to a care home may have a negative impact.

The fact is that for most of us, our homes meet some of our most vital needs; they provide comfort, security, privacy, and the chance to create a personalised space. However, as we begin to age, many of our needs change, and our homes need to change with us, otherwise we may put our health, safety and wellbeing at risk.

As we age, our body changes; we lose strength, our balance decreases, vision depletes, hearing can become damaged, sense of smell changes, and cognitive function can often begin to decline. As a result of these changes that come naturally with age, older people are more vulnerable to accidents and injuries while at home, which is why many older people end up in care homes. 

However, there are simple steps that can be taken to modify a home to ensure that it’s safer and more suitable for an older person to live in. Whether you are a carer, loved one, friend, or someone who has begun to age, the checklist below should help you to better understand what it takes to create a home that is safe and secure for a senior. 

Creating a safer kitchen

  • Keep the sink, counter tops and surrounding area well lit.
  • Ensure there are no curtains near the stove.
  • Schedule regular oven cleaning with a cleaning professional to reduce the risk of fire.
  • Easily accessible kitchen cabinets - adjustable, pull-down shelving could be worth considering.
  • Light switches should be easy to access and use.
  • Stove and oven controls should be easy to use.
  • Install automatic stove turn-off for after a certain time period - this is great for if forgetfullness is an issue.
  • Install a slip proof floor, to help prevent slips from occuring
  • All commonly used items should be kept within easy reach, avoiding the need for stools or the use of tiptoes.

Ensuring the stairway and hallway are safe

  • Stairway steps should all be level
  • Any loose or damaged steps should be repaired immeadiatly
  • All steps should have not-slip strips added to them. It’s also wise to prevent the use of carpet where possible to prevent falls.
  • Install a motion sensor light, so that during the night the light comes on when movement is detected.
  • Ensure there are handrails installed on both sides of the stairway. Stairways should always be well lit to prevent accidents occuring.
  • Light switches should be positioned at the top and bottom of the stairs, and also at the start and end of hallways.
  • Stairways and hallways must be kept clear of any tripping hazards, such as loose carpet or rugs.

Keeping the living room safe

  • Ensure that all electrical cords are placed neatly along the edges of walls or under furniture, so that they don’t create a hazard.
  • Check that all chairs - and seating - sturdy and in a good condition. If not, make sure to replace any item that is not sturdy.
  • All chairs should be the right height to making sitting down and getting up simple and straightforward.
  • Furniture should be easily spaced out to ensure that there are no obstacles when walking from place to place.
  • Furniture should not tilt or move when leaned on, as this can lead to falls and other problems.
  • All shelving and cabinets should be secured to the wall, to ensure that if leaned on, they do not cause a fall.

Stay safe in the bathroom

  • ​​Non-skid flooring, mat or strips in the bathtub or shower.
  • ​​Use glass or plexi-glass shower doors, not shower curtains. Adds support in case of loss of balance.
  • ​​Grab bars are installed on the walls inside and by the entrance to the bathtub or the shower.
  • Grab bars are installed by the toilet.
  • Consider elevated toilet sit.
  • Consider toilet-bidets. Increases hygiene and shown to significantly reduce UTI's.
  • Install fold-down seat in shower.
  • Install no-step or curbless shower.
  • ​​Towel bars double as grab bars, in the event they are mistakenly leaned upon for balance.
  • ​A single-lever faucet is used, or motion sensored faucets are installed.
  • ​​Bathroom flooring is non-skid.
  • ​​Bathroom has even lighting without glare. The light switch is near the door.
  • ​​The outlets are ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) that protect against electric shock.

Staying safe outside

  • ​​​Walkways are level, with no cracks or tripping hazards.
  • Steps are secure, and easy to see.
  • ​​​Handrails are on both sides of steps.
  • Chair or stool next to front door, where bags or purse can be placed.
  • ​​​Doorways, door lock, steps, porches, and walkways are well lit.
  • ​​​No trees,shrubs or obstructions for burglars to conceal themselves behind.
  • Yard is well maintained. Less likely to attract burglars.
  • ​​​Garage is well ventilated.

General safety tips

  • List of emergency contacts and phone numbers next to each telephone.
  • Telephones in each room, reachable in case of an emergency. Or wear a medical alert for seniors.
  • Easy to use door handles and locks, especially in the event of a smoke or fire.
  • Lever door handles with end-return, instead of knobs.
  • Level or no door thresholds.
  • Casement or awning windows, with crank
  • Hot water tank is set to a maximum 110°F to prevent scalding.
  • Area, scatter and oriental rugs are secured to the floor and the edges are not curling up.
  • All electrical equipment bears the Underwriters laboratories (UL) label.
  • Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are installed to prevent electrical overload shock.
  • Electrical wiring is up to code (call utility or electrician).
  • Extension cords and outlets are not overloaded.
  • Electrical cords are not hanging, in walking paths or underneath carpets.
  • Smoke alarms are installed and batteries changed annually.
  • Carbon dioxide detectors are installed in bedrooms and living areas.
  • Space heaters placed 3 feet away from other objects like furniture, drapes or curtains.
  • Fire extinguisher by the kitchen and any other wood stoves or fireplaces.

There you have it, an in-depth safety guide for seniors wanting to remain living at home. 

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