Michelle Geerdes, O.T.
Each year, many senior citizens are injured in or around their homes. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that an average of 1.4 million people aged 65 or older are treated in hospitals each year for injuries sustained at home or on their property.
The No. 1 cause of injuries to older adults is falls in or around the house. Older individuals are also at greater risk than others of dying in a house fire. Many of these and other injuries result from hazards that are easy to overlook but also easy to fix. By identifying these hazards and taking the necessary steps to correct them, you can prevent injuries to yourself or guests at your residence.
The following is a checklist to identify possible safety problems in or around your home that you may want to fix:
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home.
- Place a fire extinguisher in your kitchen in case of emergency.
- Set your hot water heaters to no more than 120 degrees to prevent burns.
- Make sure there is good lighting inside and outside of your home to prevent falls.
- Have an emergency plan in place for a family member or caregiver to help you escape, if needed.
- Make sure walking surfaces are slip resistant, flat, free of objects and in good condition to prevent falls.
- Have fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces and chimneys, inspected yearly by a professional to ensure they are safe to use.
- Store all medications, matches and lighters out of the reach of children. All medications should be placed with child resistant lids on the bottles.
- Never leave candles, hot plates or other potential fire sources unattended. They should be located away from flammable materials such as curtains, furniture and blankets.
- Install ground fault circuit interrupters in potentially damp locations such as the bathroom, kitchen, basement and on the exterior of the house to protect against electrocution.
Need help? An occupational therapist is trained to complete a home assessment and is able to identify potential safety violations. The therapist will make recommendations based on the results of the assessment.