If there’s one place we should feel relaxed and comfortable it is in our own home. Unfortunately, as we get older, activities and environments that we once didn’t even consider as risky can become more dangerous and difficult – meaning that staying safe at home can be tricky.
Despite this, there are a few simple things older people can do ensure they stay safe, comfortable and happy as they go about their independent lives at home. Here are our top tips for staying safe at home as an older person:
One of the main dangers older people encounter in their own home is the risk of falling. The statistics show that, in the UK, falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75.
There are some basic things you can do that will prevent most falls:
- Don’t rush! Falls often happen when people go to answer the phone. Worried that they might miss the call, they move faster than is comfortable for them. Get a cordless phone that you can carry with you or get a phone with voicemail, so you needn’t worry about missing a call.
- Wear non-slip footwear. This is especially important on hard surfaces like lino, tiles or hardwood flooring.
- Make sure your floors are well lit (including night lights if needed) and clear of obstacles. Common trip hazards include shoes on the floor and rugs. You can tape rugs down to avoid them moving when you walk on them.
- If you have stairs, use the banister when climbing or descending. Consider a stairlift if you find you have trouble with stairs.
- If you need a stick or walker then use it at all times. Don’t rely on holding on to furniture for balance – it can give way, or you can lose grip which might cause a fall.
- Try and stay active. Regular exercise will help you to maintain your fitness, balance and co-ordination. Exercise need not be strenuous; a gentle walk can have a huge effect on your overall health and well-being.
- If you think you might be at risk of a fall, or have recently fallen, speak to your GP. They may be able to recommend strength and balance improving exercises as well as referring you for a sight test if necessary.
It’s also important to realise that not all falls can be prevented, so you should have a system in place. The best solution for this is to use a personal alarm, which is our next tip.
A Personal Alarm is a device that allows a person to raise a call for help when needed. The most common form of the Personal Alarm is a monitored pendant alarm. These alarms work using small button worn around the neck or wrist that can be pressed if assistance is needed.
Once activated, the button sends a signal to an alarm base unit that is connected to the telephone line. The base unit then automatically dials a 24-hour Care Team, who will respond to the distress call by alerting nominated friends, family, neighbours or carers, or the emergency services if the situation requires it.
A personal alarm system is helpful in a variety of situations which makes it one of the top recommendations on this list. Some common reasons people activate their alarms include:
- A sudden health problem.
- Concerns about a potential intruder or unwanted visitor.
- Detecting a fire or flood.
- Suffering from a fall and being unable to get up without help.
In these situations, a Personal Alarm can help an older person get the help they need, when they need it, while remaining independent and ensuring that they are staying safe at home.
The statistics show that, in the UK, falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75.”
As we age we can become more vulnerable to the risk of fire. There a few reasons for this. Firstly, our ability to keep up with jobs around the house can diminish as we get older. This includes things like testing a smoke detector regularly or replacing the batteries in it.
Secondly, older people can find it more difficult to detect a fire when it happens because they tend to have more sensory impairments than younger people. Being on medication can also make a big difference to a person’s ability to detect fire, and reduced mobility can add to the danger if a fire ever does occur.
Here are some ways in which you can help prevent a fire in your home:
- Don’t daisy chain extension leads. You might overload the socket which can cause an electrical fire.
- Don’t leave candles unattended.
- Try not to wear loose clothing while cooking.
- Look out for damaged cords on appliances.
- Have a smoke detector installed and test it at least once a month. Smoke detectors are the most effective way of staying safe in a fire. Read more on the fire service website.
If you do ever detect a fire in your home, don’t attempt to put it out yourself. Call 999 immediately and leave your house as quickly as possible. If you can’t get to your phone, activate your personal alarm if you have one. Don’t go back for belongings or valuables, you are the most valuable thing in your home!
Despite usually being the smallest room in the house, the bathroom tends to be the most dangerous for older people. The combination of hard surfaces and water can increase the risk of slips and falls, and, on average, we use the toilet seven times a day – making this a very commonly used room.
There are a few steps that you can take to improve the safety of your bathroom:
- If you have a shower over your bath, put a rubber mat on the bathtub to stop potential slips.
- Have grab rails installed in your bathroom. Grab rails near the toilet and shower can make moving around the bathroom much safer than it would otherwise be.
- If you struggle with balance, then it might be worth investing in a shower seat. These are a great alternative to standing in the shower and minimise the risk of slips.
- If you have a personal alarm, make sure the pendant button is waterproof, like the MyAmie Pendant. This will mean that you can wear it in the bath or shower so that if an accident does happen in these areas, you can call for help.
As a reminder, the personal alarm system at Lifeline24 includes a waterproof pendant.
In today’s modern world, it is impossible to discuss safety in the home and not address the use of electronics. Unfortunately, many of the accidents involving electricity can prove fatal so it has never been more important to make sure your home is as safe as it can be.
Here are some electrical tips for your home:
- Ensure that electric cords are in good condition e.g. free of fraying.
- Use any appliances away from water to prevent electric shocks.
- Turn off/unplug any small appliances when the home is unoccupied.
- Make sure to safely stow away any leads and don’t leave power cords in places where they can be tripped over.
Bear in mind that appliances can get hot, so keep them away from anything flammable – such as aerosols, curtains and woollen carpets.
When many of us think of accidents occurring in the home, our mind tends to jump to the bathroom. However, the kitchen can be a dangerous place too. Whilst cooking can be a relaxing pass time, it doesn’t come without it’s risks. Shocks, slips and burns are all common injuries resulting from accidents in the kitchen.
Check out these kitchen safety tips to make sure you’re staying safe at home:
- Make sure you wear appropriate clothing. Avoid any baggy clothes as these are a fire risk and always make sure you wear sensible shoes. It can be very easy to drop knives in the middle of food preparation!
- Stir away from your body to avoid getting burnt when cooking on the stove.
- Keep your kitchen environment clean and make sure to deal with any spillages promptly so that they don’t cause a fall.
- Always use oven gloves when it comes to removing hot things from the microwave or oven.
- Keep knives sharp as a blunt knife is more prone to slipping and cutting. Always slice away from your body and go slow until you are confident.
- It is a good idea to keep a small first aid kit in the kitchen. Make sure it is fully stocked with scissors, plasters, gauze and burn cream.
Getting up and down those stairs can be difficult. You may run out of breath quite quickly, or you could even trip and fall down them. If you have asthma or joint problems due to arthritis or osteoporosis, then you may need to consider a stair lift.
Stair lifts allow you to get up and down those stairs comfortably. There’s no need to worry about tripping up or running out of breath. You can sit down and relax as you are virtually carried up your staircase.
If a stair lift isn’t an optional financially, then there are other ways to stay safe:
- Take your time walking up and down the stairs.
- Get a relative or friend to help you.
- Install a downstairs toilet.
- Consider moving into a bungalow.
Hot and Cold Weather
Both very hot and very cold weather can be dangerous for the elderly. This is the case even if you stay inside and away from the heat or frost. There are plenty of things you can do at home to ensure that you remain cool during the summer, and toasty during the winter.
Heat waves can cause dehydration, heat strokes and overheating. It is particularly dangerous for those who suffer from heart or breathing problems. First of all you should get out of the sun and into the comfort of your home. Next, follow some of these simple tips:
- During peak sun times (11am – 3pm) shut your windows and pull down the shades. Open your windows when it is cooler. Keep your rooms cool by using light-coloured curtains and closing them.
- Have cool baths or showers. Keep splashing your face with cool water if you feel too hot.
- Drink cold drinks throughout the day. Stick to water and diluted juice. Avoid fizzy drinks, alcohol and caffeine.
Cold weather can be lethal. We need to do everything we can to remain warm and safe in our homes. The cost of keeping your home heated can be an issue but there is help available. The government offer a Winter Fuel Payment which can provide a tax-free payment to go towards you bills.
Here’s some tips to help keep you and your home warm:
- Wear warm clothing. Ensure you wear nice thick jumpers and comfy slippers on your feet. Alternatively, wear plenty of thin layers together. This helps trap heat within the different layers.
- At night, keep your socks on when you go to bed. Wear warm pyjamas and use a hot water bottle.
- Ensure your living room and bedroom are heated sufficiently.
- Keep your curtains and doors closed. This will keep draughts away.
The key to staying safe at home during these weather conditions is to ensure that you are well informed. If you follow the news and weather, you will know what to expect and this will enable you to prepare for whatever is coming.
As we grow older, many of our day to day needs change. Make sure that you are visiting your GP regularly and taking the correct medication. Managing your medication is a hugely important step when maintaining your independence as an older person:
- To avoid confusion when it comes to using medication, keep all medicines in their original containers with clear labels.
- Make sure any stored medication is in date.
- Return any out of date or leftover medicines to the pharmacist for destruction.
- Keep any chemical cleaning products separate from medicine.
Keep an up-to date medication list and give a copy to your family. If you have a personal alarm let the Care Team know, it can be helpful for those attending your property to know what it is you are taking and when. There are also apps available for your phone and tablet which can remind you when it’s time to take your medication.
Crime is a growing concern within the elderly community and we all want to feel safe in our own homes. As law enforcement resources are further stretched, it is the responsibility of all of us to do our bit to prevent crime.
Luckily, there a few simple things you can do to protect yourself and make it hard for criminals to work in your area:
- Keep valuable items out of view. Do not tempt potential criminals by advertising your desirable items!
- If you wish to leave a spare key accessible for family members, purchase a keysafe and make sure it is out of view of public areas.
- Always remember to lock both your doors and windows whenever you leave your home.
- Keep valuable items away from your front door. Criminals often use hook devices to take things through the letterbox.
Remember, if you feel suspicious or frightened that somebody is trying to get into your home, please call the police immediately.
This final tip is potentially the best advice you can be given when it comes to staying safe in your own home. By keeping in touch with people socially, you improve not only your quality of life but your mental health.
Loneliness has been shown to be deadly, so these relationships are more important now, than ever. Here are our top tips when it comes to staying in touch with those that you love:
- Make the effort to meet up with family and friends regularly.
- Keep in touch the old-fashioned way – send letters and photographs to those who live further away.
- Don’t be afraid to give someone a ring for no other reason than to have a catch up. Everyone loves a good natter!
- Embrace new technology and use social media and Skype to stay in contact with loved ones overseas.
- Invest in a personal alarm and register those you trust as your emergency contacts.
By maintaining a strong support network, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you have people to call on if you need them.
Staying safe at home
As we have mentioned already in this blog article on staying safe at home, one of the most thorough ways of staying safe at home is by having a personal alarm installed. This provides you with somebody to call for help, day or night, if you have a fall or feel unwell.
For more information on purchasing one of our life-saving personal alarms, please speak to one of our friendly advisers on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Editors note: This article was originally published on the September 18, 2017. Updated on November 2, 2018 to improve the information available.
Remember to use the discount code BLOG2018 when you order one of our personal alarm systems on a Monthly or Annual Plan to receive £10 off.