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Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Simple Home Safety Solutions

I worry about home safety for my parent who lives alone. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to help keep them safe from hazards such as falls and fires?

There are several small adjustments and modifications you can be made to help protect from falls and fires, both of which cause thousands of injuries and deaths each year. Here are some tips to get you started.

Eliminate tripping hazards: Since falls are the leading cause of home injury among seniors, a good place to start is to assess the layout of the home. If there are throw rugs, a common tripping hazard, use carpet tacks or double-sided tape to secure them or remove them entirely. Ensure the furniture is placed so there are clear pathways to walk through and position any electrical or phone cords along walls and out of the way.

For hardwood stairs, consider attaching a nonslip tread to each step to provide traction and help your parent see the edge of the step. For added protection in the bathroom, purchase some nonskid rugs for the floors. Place adhesive nonslip treads or a mat with rubber suction inside the tub or shower stall to prevent slips.

Improve the lighting: Proper lighting is essential for safety. Check the wattage ratings on the lamps and light fixtures and install the brightest bulbs allowed. Adding supplemental lighting to eliminate dark areas is also helpful.

You should also purchase some dusk to dawn nightlights for the bathroom and hallways. It is also a good idea to mount motion sensor lights outside the front and back doors and in the driveway that automatically come on after dark.

Get grab bars: Grab bars can significantly reduce the risk of bathroom falls. Install them at the entry to the shower or tub and on a wall inside the stall, but do not use grab bars that attach with suction. Instead, have wall-mounted bars installed by a professional who can affix them to the wall studs. It is also best to choose bars with surfaces that are slightly textured and easier to grip.

Ensure railings are stable: Wherever there are steps – stairways, entryways or basements – it is essential to have sturdy railings. Ideally, the railings should be on both sides of the steps.

Prevent cooking fires: There are several affordable products you can purchase to help prevent home cooking fires. There are discs that attach to a stove's knob that will continuously blink or beep after the stove has been in use for a preset amount of time and "smart knobs" that can control a stove's heating settings from a mobile device. In addition, there are higher tech options such as stove sensors that shut off the stove when they do not detect motion for a certain number of minutes or that send an alert if unsafe cooking temperatures are reached.

Install smoke alarms: Install a "smart" smoke alarm in the house (one for each floor) that will alert your parent when smoke or carbon monoxide is detected. These smart devices will also send alerts to your phone to let you know when a problem is detected.

Add fire extinguishers: Get portable multipurpose fire extinguishers for each level of the house and in the garage.

Consider a medical alert device: To provide you some peace of mind, consider getting a medical alert device that comes with a wearable SOS button that will allow your parent to call for help in case they fall or need assistance.

Many organizations publish tips and checklists to help ensure a safe living space. You can search for these on the internet using the key phrase "home safety checklist". You will find many suggestions that can help make your parent's home safer and easier to live in.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published January 6, 2023
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