If there’s one place we should feel relaxed and comfortable, it's in our own homes. Unfortunately, as we get older, safety at home isn't always guaranteed. Changes to our mobility, vision, balance, or memory can make staying safe at home a little trickier than it used to be.
Despite these challenges, there are a few simple things older people can do to stay safe, comfortable, and happy at home. Here are our top home safety tips for older people. By following this guidance, you can create a safer home environment, allowing you to carry on living independently in the home you love.
Falls are perhaps the biggest risk that older people face in the home. In fact, according to the NHS, one in three people over the age of 65 will have a fall at home each year. Statistics show that falls are sadly the most common cause of injury-related deaths in people over the age of 75.
Therefore, preventing falls is essential when it comes to home safety for elderly people. Here are some useful fall-prevention tips for older people:
- Don’t rush - Falls often happen when people are rushing to answer the phone. If you're worried about missing a phone call, you'll move faster than you normally would. Instead of rushing, get a cordless phone that you can keep nearby. Alternatively, let the call go to voicemail and give the person a call back.
- Wear non-slip footwear - This is especially important on hard surfaces like lino, tiles, or wooden flooring. If you don't want to wear shoes inside, invest in a good pair of slippers or house shoes. Choose sturdy soles with a good grip to avoid slipping over.
- Make sure your floors are well lit (including night lights if needed) and clear of obstacles - Common trip hazards include rugs and shoes left on the floor. You can tape rugs down to stop them from moving when you walk on them. Put shoes away in a cupboard or shoe rack as soon as you take them off.
- If you have stairs, use the banister when climbing or descending - If you only have a banister on one side, we'd recommend installing another one so you can hold on with both hands. Alternatively, if you're struggling with the stairs in general, consider a stairlift.
- If you use a walking stick or frame, 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 coordination. Exercise needn't be strenuous; a gentle walk can have a huge effect on your overall health and well-being. You can even exercise while sitting down! Read our chair exercise guide here.
- 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 exercises to improve your strength and balance or refer you for tests if necessary.
It’s also important to realise that not all falls can be prevented. Accidents can happen no matter how prepared you are, so you should always have a system in place. The best solution for this is to use a personal alarm.
When it comes to staying safe at home, personal alarms are perhaps the most helpful tool you can use. A personal alarm allows you to call for help in an emergency. There are a few different kinds of alarm, but the most common is a monitored pendant alarm. These alarms usually consist of a base unit and a small pendant, which the user can wear around their wrist or neck. Whenever they need assistance, they can press the button on the pendant to raise the alarm.
Once activated, the button sends a signal to an alarm base unit. Most alarm units, including the Lifeline24 Personal Alarm, use a landline connection to call on a 24-hour Response Team, who will respond by contacting nominated friends, family, neighbours, or carers to come and assist the user. If it is a medical emergency, the Response Team will also contact the emergency services.
A personal alarm system is helpful in so many different situations. Here are just a few common reasons why people activate their alarms:
- A sudden health problem such as chest pain or a seizure.
- Concerns about a potential intruder or unwanted visitor.
- Detecting a fire or flood.
- Suffering from a fall and needing assistance to get back up.
In these situations, a personal alarm ensures that an older person can get the help they need when they need it. Personal alarms save lives and support independent living, providing peace of mind to older people and their loved ones alike. They're also a big help to the NHS.
"Statistics show that, in the UK, falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75."
Older people are more vulnerable to house fires than younger people. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, older people are generally less likely to keep up with household jobs like testing a smoke detector regularly or replacing the batteries in it. These jobs might seem small, but they are an essential part of safety at home.
Secondly, older people can find it more difficult to detect a fire when it happens. This might be because they tend to have more sensory impairments than younger people. Certain medications can also affect your ability to detect fire, and mobility issues can add to the danger if a fire ever does occur.
Here are five fire prevention tips to help older people stay safe at home:
- Look out for damaged cords on electrical appliances.
- Don’t plug an extension lead into another extension lead. You might overload the socket which can cause an electrical fire.
- Don’t leave lit candles unattended.
- Avoid smoking indoors and ensure that you stub out your cigarettes completely (or try quitting smoking altogether).
- Avoid wearing loose clothing while cooking.
- Install a smoke detector and test it at least once a month. Smoke detectors are the most effective way to protect yourself from fire. Read more on the fire service website.
If you 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.
The smallest room can present some of the biggest hazards for older people. The combination of hard, slippery surfaces and water can increase the risk of falls and injuries. On average, we use the bathroom seven times a day. With so many trips to and from the bathroom, it's important to make things as safe as possible.
There are a few simple steps you can take to make your bathroom safer:
- If you have a shower over your bath, place a rubber mat in the bathtub to prevent slips.
- Install grab rails in your bathroom. Grab rails by the toilet, shower, and bath can help you keep your balance on slippery surfaces.
- If you struggle with balance, consider 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 water-resistant. By keeping your pendant on in the bath or shower, you'll be able to call for help quickly if you need it.
All Lifeline24 Alarm systems include a water-resistant pendant for safe use in the bathroom. Whether you choose our standard Lifeline24 Personal Alarm and Pendant or the Fall Detector Alarm for extra peace of mind, you'll be protected in every room of the house.
Nowadays, it is impossible to talk about safety at home without addressing electronics. Unfortunately, many accidents involving electricity can prove fatal, so it is absolutely vital to make your home as safe as can be.
Here are some electrical tips to help you stay safe at home:
- Ensure that electric cords are in good condition e.g. no fraying cables or cracks in the casing.
- Inspect your sockets regularly - there should be no visible damage and they shouldn't make any noise.
- Keep all electrical appliances far away from water to prevent electric shocks.
- Turn off or unplug any small appliances when you leave the house.
- Be careful not to overload extension leads - make sure you know the maximum current rating for the lead.
- Don't daisy-chain extension leads together.
If you have any worries about the electrics in your house, we recommend contacting an electrician to come and do a safety check. This way, you can address any potential hazards before they become too dangerous. Being proactive is key to ensuring safety at home.
Bear in mind that electrical appliances can get hot, so keep them away from anything flammable such as aerosols and curtains.
Lots of us enjoy cooking as a relaxing pastime, but the kitchen has its own set of risks to consider. Burns, slips and injuries are all too common in the kitchen, particularly for older people.
You can minimise your risk of injury in the kitchen by following these safety tips:
- Wear appropriate clothing. Overly baggy clothes can be a fire risk - especially loose-flowing sleeves.
- Always wear sensible shoes. Look for sturdy soles with good grip and avoid open-toed shoes - it can be very easy to drop a knife in the middle of food preparation.
- Stir away from your body to avoid burns and splashes when cooking on the stove.
- Staying safe at home means keeping things clean. This means dealing with any spillages promptly to prevent slips and wiping down surfaces to kill bacteria.
- Always use oven gloves when removing hot things from the oven or microwave.
- Keep your knives sharp. Despite what you might think, a blunt knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. Always slice away from your body and go slowly 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 antiseptic.
Getting up and down those stairs can be difficult as we get older. You might lose your breath more quickly than you used to, or be a little unsteady on your feet. If you have asthma or joint problems due to arthritis or osteoporosis, then you may want to consider a stairlift.
Stairlifts allow you to get up and down the stairs safely and comfortably. There's no need to worry about tripping up or running out of breath. You can sit down and relax as you are carried up your staircase. By eliminating the risk of staircase accidents, staying safe at home becomes much easier.
A stairlift is certainly a big investment. However, there are grants available to help you cover the costs. You might even be eligible for a free stairlift through social services. However, if a stairlift isn't an option financially, then there are other ways to ensure staircase safety at home:
- Take your time walking up and down the stairs.
- Get a relative or friend to help you.
- Install a downstairs toilet to minimise trips up and down the stairs.
- Consider downsizing and moving into a bungalow.
8. Hot and Cold Weather
Very hot and very cold weather can be equally dangerous for elderly people. This is the case even if you stay inside and away from the heat or frost. However, there are plenty of things you can do at home to remain cool during the summer and toasty during the winter.
Safety at Home in Hot Weather
Heatwaves can cause dehydration, heat strokes, and overheating. High temperatures are 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 these simple tips:
- During peak sun times (11 am to 3 pm) shut your windows and pull down the shades. Only open your windows when it is cooler. Keep your rooms cool by using light-coloured curtains and closing them.
- Have cool baths or showers. Splash your face with cool water if you feel too hot. Alternatively, soak a sponge or washcloth in cool water and place it on the back of your neck. Running cold water on your wrists can also be effective at reducing body temperature.
- Drink cold drinks throughout the day. Stick to water and diluted juice. Avoid fizzy drinks, alcohol and caffeine.
Safety at Home in Cold Weather
Cold weather can be lethal. Ensuring safety at home means keeping your home warm and comfortable. For lots of people, the cost of heating your home can be an issue, but luckily there is help available. Everyone who receives a State Pension is eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment. This is a tax-free payment to help you cover your bills throughout the winter.
Here are some additional tips to help you stay warm:
- Wear warm clothing. Layers are definitely the way to go because they trap warm air.
- 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. Draught excluders are also an affordable solution.
Age often brings with it some significant changes to our bodies. Make sure that you are visiting your GP regularly and taking the correct medication. Managing your medication is a crucially important part of staying safe at home and maintaining your independence as an older person:
- To avoid confusion, keep all medicines in their original containers with clear labels. Alternatively, if you are taking several different medications, consider investing in a pill organiser box.
- Be aware of expiration dates. Make sure any medication you are taking is still in date.
- Return any out of date or leftover medicines to the pharmacist for destruction.
- Make sure to store any chemical cleaning products separately from medicines.
Keep an up-to-date medication list and give a copy to your family. If you have a personal alarm, let the Response Team know about any medication you take. This information can be useful in a medical emergency and the Response Team can inform the emergency services. There are also apps available for your phone and tablet which can remind you when it's time to take your medication.
Crime is one of the biggest concerns for lots of older people. It's sometimes easy to feel vulnerable in your home, especially if you live by yourself. However, there are several steps you can take to keep yourself safe.
Here are our home safety tips for protecting yourself against intruders:
- Keep your valuable items out of view. Do not tempt potential criminals by advertising your desirable items.
- If you wish to leave a spare key for family members, purchase a secure keysafe. Never hide keys under doormats or plant pots.
- Always remember to lock your doors and windows whenever you leave your home.
- For peace of mind, consider installing motion-activated lights, security cameras, or a video doorbell.
If you ever feel frightened or suspect that somebody is trying to enter your home, call the police immediately. It's always better to be safe than sorry.
Our final tip is potentially the best advice you can get when it comes to staying safe at home. By keeping in touch with the people around you, you'll improve both your quality of life and your mental health.
Loneliness can have major consequences on both physical and mental health. Feeling isolated can also make you feel more vulnerable at home.
Here are our top tips when it comes to staying in touch with those that you love:
- Try to meet up with family and friends regularly. You don't need lots of time or money - going for a quick walk will make a difference.
- 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.
- Embrace new technology. Use social media and video calls to stay in contact with loved ones near and far.
- Invest in a personal alarm and nominate the people 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.
More Help with Safety at Home
As you can see, there are lots of things to consider when it comes to staying safe at home. For anyone who wants to maintain their independence, we would highly recommend a Lifeline24 alarm. The Lifeline24 personal alarm system means you will always have somebody to call for help, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
For more information on our life-saving personal alarms, please don't hesitate to call us on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, fill in a quick contact form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
You can also order a Lifeline24 alarm online at any time. All our alarms are available with free next-day delivery.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on 25th May 2022 to reflect current information.