Safety is the of the utmost importance in the home, but it’s especially important for seniors. Most of us think of our homes as an oasis and a place to relax after a long day. But the home can quickly become a dangerous place for seniors if you don’t take the proper steps to make it safe.
Home Safety Checklist for Seniors
The safety checklist below will help ensure that your home doesn’t become a hazard for seniors.
Lighting is of the utmost importance for seniors in the home. Every room in the home should have adequate lighting so that seniors – and everyone else – can navigate safely through the home at night.
Consider adding nightlights to rooms (like the bathroom) and hallways that are used often at night.
Handrails are essential for seniors who have mobility issues and for safety in general. If you have stairs in the home, make sure that there are sturdy railings to help seniors get around easier. If necessary, have the handrails installed on both sides of the stairwell.
If a senior has great difficulty walking up and down the stairs, you might consider having a stair lift installed.
Floors and Carpeting
Take a walk around your home and assess the condition of the floors and carpeting.
If you have hardwood floors, you want to check for loose boards or holes. If you have carpeting, you want to check for lifted parts of the carpeting or dips that may cause someone to trip. It is essential for the floor to be even so that seniors can walk safely across.
Remove all clutter from the floors, including cords and objects, to keep hallways and rooms safe to walk through. If you use a walker or a rollator it is especially important to keep loose items off of your floor.
If you have throw rugs – which is common with hardwood flooring – make sure that the rug is secured to the floor using double-sided tape or some other specially designed product. If you cannot keep the rugs safely in place, then it may be time to remove them completely. If the rug slides easily along the floor, it can become a hazard.
Emergency Alert and Phone
What happens if something goes wrong and the senior in the home gets hurt? If there is no one home to help, is there an emergency alert system or a phone that the senior can use to call for help?
If the senior doesn’t have a cell phone, now may be a good time to buy one. Emergency alert systems are also great for seniors with balance and mobility issues. If he or she falls and cannot get to a phone or the cell phone, the consequences can be fatal.
An emergency alert system makes it easy for seniors to call for help. These systems typically come in the form of a necklace or bracelet that allows the user to push a button to call for help.
It’s essential to ensure that the home has a fire extinguisher. This is an important tip not only for seniors – but for everyone. If someone accidentally leaves a candle unattended or there’s a mishap in the kitchen, a fire extinguisher can put out the flames before they have a chance to spread to the rest of the house.
Make sure that the fire extinguisher is within easy reach and in a central location, such as the kitchen or living room. These are areas where fires are more likely to occur, so extinguishers should be easily accessible here.
Where are the senior’s daily essentials, like medicine and food, stored? Are these items within easy reach? If items are stored in high cabinets, they may be too high for the senior to reach without help.
You might consider buying a sturdy stepstool to reach high items, but items that are used on a regular basis should be within easy reach.
Medications should be within easy reach, but they should also be stored safely. Medication that is improperly stored may not be as effective or may not work as intended. Talk to the senior’s pharmacist about proper storage of prescription drugs.
Bathroom Mats and Handrails
Are there adequate handrails in the bathroom? What about bathtub mats? Some seniors may need assistance getting in and out of the shower. It’s also important to make sure that they don’t slip when they’re in the shower or tub. That’s where handrails and shower mats come in handy.
Mats create a gripping surface in the bathtub to prevent slipping while the shower or tub is in use. Handrails give something for seniors to hold onto to improve their balance when getting in and out of the shower.
The handrails should be specially installed and designed for this purpose. Do not allow the senior to rely on a towel bar for balance when getting in and out of the shower. Towel bars are not designed to hold a lot of weight and may pull out of the wall.
Click here to see a list of safe mobility products you should consider installing in your bathroom.
Check every room in the home to make sure there are enough smoke detectors installed – and make sure that they are working properly. Make it a point to change the batteries yearly to keep the detectors working properly.
Also, make sure there are carbon monoxide detectors installed and that they are working properly as well.
When smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly, they will alert seniors and officials of emergencies. These are life-saving tools that must be in good working condition at all times.
If any detectors are not working properly, have them replaced or repaired immediately.
State of the Furniture
What state is the furniture in? Is it worn and falling apart? If so, it may become a hazard. Replace or repair any pieces of furniture that may prove to be a safety risk, like tables, chairs and sofas.
Do you have trouble getting up from a seated position? If so, a lift chair recliner would help you get out safely without the need of assistance.
Water Heater Temperature
Most water heaters allow you to adjust the temperature of the water to your liking. But there’s a fine line between hot and scalding water. Check to make sure that the hot water temperature is at a safe level to prevent accidental burns.
Check the owner’s manual to find out how to adjust the water temperature, and make adjustments as necessary.
Snow and Ice Removal
If you live in an area with colder winters, check to make sure arrangements are made for snow and ice removal. This may be a professional service, or you may have a loved one who has agreed to remove snow and ice to keep the senior’s home safe.
In addition to these items, you should also ensure that you or your loved one is able to truly live independently.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.