Elderly Safety – Each year, according to estimates by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), nearly 1 million people over age 65 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with the products they live with and use everyday. The death rate from accidental injuries in the home is approximately three times greater for older people than for the younger population. Specifically, there are 60 deaths per 100,000 persons 65 and older, while there are 20 deaths per 100,000 persons under 65.
Slips and falls are the main cause of injury for older people in the home. The CPSC recommends the use of grab-bars and non-slip mats in the bathtub, handrails on both sides of the stairs, and slip-resistant carpets and rugs. Burns occur from hot tap water and from open flame. The CPSC recommends that consumers turn down the temperature of their water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to help prevent scalds. The CPSC also recommends the installation and maintenance of at least one smoke detector on every floor of the home. Older consumers should consider purchasing nightwear that is flame-resistant and choose garments made of tightly woven fabrics, such as 100% polyester, 100% nylon or 100% wool.
The CPSC believes that many of injuries to elderly persons in their homes result from hazards that are easy to overlook, but also easy to fix. By spotting these hazards and taking some simple steps to correct them, many injuries might be prevented. Use this checklist to spot possible safety problems which may be present in your home. Keep this checklist as a reminder of safe practices, and use it periodically to re-check your home. This checklist is organized by areas in the home. However, there are some potential hazards that need to be checked in more than just one area of your home.
- Arrange furniture so that outlets are available for lamps and appliances without the use of extension cords.
- If you must use an extension cord, place it on the floor against a wall where people can not trip over it.
- Move the phone so that telephone cords will not lie where people walk.
- Remove cords from under furniture or carpeting.
- Replace damaged and frayed cords.
CHECK ALL RUGS, RUNNERS AND MATS
RECOMMENDATION: The CPSC estimates that in 1982, over 2,500 people 65 and over were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries that resulted from tripping over rugs and runners. Falls are also the most common cause of fatal injury for older people.
- Remove rugs and runners that tend to slide.
- Apply double-faced adhesive carpet tape or rubber matting to the backs of rugs and runners.
- Purchase rugs with slip-resistant backing.
- Check rugs and mats periodically to see if backing needs to be replaced.
- Place rubber matting under rugs. (Rubber matting that can be cut to size is available.)
- Purchase new rugs with slip-resistant backing.
- CHECK SMOKE DETECTORSRECOMMENDATION: At least one smoke detector should be placed on every floor of your home.
Read the instructions that come with the smoke detector for advice on the best place to install it.
- Make sure detectors are placed near bedrooms, either on the ceiling or 6 to 12 inches below the ceiling on the wall.
- Locate smoke detectors away from air vents.
CHECK ELECTRICAL OUTLETS AND SWITCHES
RECOMMENDATION: Unusually warm or hot outlets or switches may indicate that an unsafe wiring condition exists.
- Unplug cords from outlets and do not use the switches.
- Have an electrician check the wiring as soon as possible.
CHECK THE EMERGENCY EXIT PLAN
RECOMMENDATION: Once a fire starts, it spreads rapidly. Since you may not have much time to get out and there may be a lot of confusion, it is important that everyone knows what to do.
- Develop an emergency exit plan.
- Choose a meeting place outside your home so you can be sure that everyone is capable of escape quickly and safely.
- Practice the plan from time to time to make sure everyone is capable of escape quickly and safely.
Remember periodically to re-check your home.
In the kitchen, check the range area, all electrical cords, lighting, the stool, all throw rugs and mats, and the telephone area for safety hazards.
CHECK THE RANGE AREA
- Store flammable and combustible items away from the range and oven.
- Remove any towels hanging on oven handles. If towels hang close to a burner, change the location of the towel rack.
- If necessary, shorten or remove curtains which could brush against heat sources.
In the bathroom, check bathtub and shower areas, water temperature, rugs and mats, lighting, small electrical appliances, and storage areas for medications.
CHECK BATHTUB AND SHOWER AREAS
RECOMMENDATION: Wet, soapy tile and porcelain surfaces are especially slippery and may contribute to falls.
- Apply textured strips or appliques on the floors of tubs and showers.
- Use non-skid mats in the tub and shower, and on the bathroom floor.