Senior Security

House Safety Tips

Keeping your independence as you grow older is something many people want to enjoy, but the fact is, it carries it's risks. There are things you can do to help make it a comfortable and safer place for years to come. Should you decide to move, the increased safety and accessibility could also be selling features.

Lighting and Switches

  • It's a good idea to have plenty of well-positioned, well-diffused lighting.
  • High traffic areas, stairways, closets and over the bathroom sink and kitchen work areas are just some of the places where good illumination is needed.
  • Install switches at the top and bottom of your stairs.
  • Consider installing switches lower on the walls in case of wheelchair users.
  • Dimmer switches allow you to leave certai lights on low, for example, between the bedroom and bathroom.

Electrical Outlets

  • Adding more electrival outlets will help prevent overloading or having to run cords across areas where they may be in the way.
  • Extension cords shouldnever be used on a permanent basis, since this presents a fire hazard.
  • Power bars can help prevent short cirtcuits and fires.

Doors

  • If you plan to work on or replace a door, check the height of the door sill or threshold. It should be no more than 1/2" (13 mm) high.
  • It may be a good idea to reduce or remove the door sill because uneven surfaces can lead to a trip or a fall.
  • You may also want to widen doorways to accomodate wheelchairs or replace doorknobs with lever habdles which are easier to use.
  • Consider the advantages of sliding or swinging doors, and doors that open outward.

Stairs

  • The backs of stairs should be closed in.
  • There should be firmly anchored handrails on both sides of the stairway, mounted far enough out fromt he wall to allow a solid grip.
  • They should be well lit and the steps shouldhave a non-skid surface.

Flooring

  • Use non-glare, slip-resistant flooring material.
  • A hard floor surface or tight pile carpeting is best.
  • Consider using the same floor surface over different areas in order to eliminate uneven surfaces.

Shelving

  • Add lower level shelves, such as between the counter top and cupboard level.
  • You may also wish to install lower shelves in your pantry and closets.

Taps, shower heads, grab bars

  • Lever-type or control-arm-type faucet handles are easier to use.
  • Make sure you install grab bars solidly on the wall studs.
  • A hand-held shower head is easier to use when using a bath seat.

Locks and latches

  • Door locks in bathrooms must have an emergency release.
  • Locks and latches should have large, easily manipulated knobs or levers.
  • The market now has models that offer both safety and security, such as push-button or card-access locks.

Workroom

  • Windows and overhead lights are a must.
  • Additional lighting should also be available over benches and stationary tools.
  • Adequate ventilation systems are needed to vent smoke fumes and exhaust gases.
  • Open windows and doors may provide enough ventilation in the summer but not in the winter.
  • The wiring must be of adequate capacity to handle lighting, heating and power tool requirements.

Infomation provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Aging and changes

As you age, your body begins to loose the abilities it had when younger. Some seniors experience physical limitations that seriously affect their level of activity, while others are able to remain quite active. If you're experiencing some of the problems associated with the changes described below, consult your health professional and make sure you undertake whatever changes or adaptations will help you cope and compensate.

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  • Vision: Eyes take longer to adjust when there is a change in the amount of light in a room, and become more sensitive to flare from bright lights. There is a decline in depth perception that makes it hard to judge distances. Perceiving contrasts and colors can also be more difficult.
  • Touch, smell and hearing: Sensitivity to touch decreases, making it more difficult to detect a liquid's temperature or changes in floor surfaces. Sense of smell diminishes, making it harder to smell spoiled food, leaking gas and smoke. Hearing loss can result in difficulty hearing telephones, doorbells, smoke alarms, etc. It can alsor esult in a decrease in balance which can make falling more likely.
  • Bone Density: Bones naturally become more dense and weaker with age. Bone loss among seniors can be worsened by lack of exercise and nutritional deficiencies. Bone loss can lead to easier fractures, disficurement, lowered self-esteem and a reduction or loss of movement.
  • Balance and gait: Balance is a complex function involving eyes, inner ear, muscular strentgth and joint flexibility. Any one of these can change as a result of aging. With a decline in equilibrium, it can be more difficult to maintain or recover balance, meaning that a small slip or trip can easily become a fall.
  • Memory: In general, sharp braisn tend to stay sharp. Cognitive processing and memory may take a bit longer bit this is a normal effect of aging. This is why it's important to make lists and keep phone numbers handy.

Senior Security: Preventing falls

More than half of all injuries among Canadians over 65 years come from falls. One third of community-dwelling Canadian seniors experience a fall each year, and half of those will fall more than once. The chances of dying from a fall-related injury increase with age: 20% of feaths related to injury can be traced back to a fall among seniors. THey also account for 27% of all injury-related hospital admissions and 79% of seniors' injury-related hospitalizations, making it the leading cause of admissions for seniors.

Forty percent of seniors' falls result in hip fractures and half of those who break their hips will never walk unassisted again: women sustain 75-80% of all hip fractures and one in five older adults will die within 12 months of suffering a hip fracture.

Apart from personal suffering, loss of independence and lower quality of life, falls account for $1 billion annual cost to the health system. Seniors' falls are alsor esponsible for 40% of admissions to nursing homes and result in a 10% increase in home care services.

Nearly half of all injuries among seniors happen at home. The bathroom and stairs are particularly dangerous areas. However, you can prevent falls by making adjustments to your home and lifestyle, and by making sure you eat well, stay fit, and use whatever devices you may need to help keep you safe.

Minimize your risk

In the bathroom:

  • Use a rubber bath mat for the tub and shower. Install the mat when the tub is dry.
  • Install grab bars by the toilet and bath to help you sit and stand.
  • Use a bath seat in the shower and a raised toilet seat, if you need them.
  • Wipe up any moisture or spills right away.

In the living room and bedroom:

  • Reduce clutter. Get rid of loose wires, cords and other obstacles.
  • Consider using a cordless phone so you will not have to rush to answer it.
  • Have good lighting throughout the house and install nightlights.
  • Make sure the path is clear between the bedroom and bathroom.
  • Scatter mats are tripping hazards. Get rid of them or make sure they are non-slip.
  • Move slowly out of your bed or chair. Getting up suddenly can make you dizzy.

In the kitchen:

  • Store kitchen supplies and pots and pans in easy-to-reach locations.
  • Store heavy items in lower cupboards.
  • Use a stable step stool with a safety rail for reaching high places.
  • Always wipe up spills immediately to prevent slipping.
  • If you use floor wax, use the non-skid kind.
  • Ask for help with tasks that you feel you cannot do safely on your own.

Around stairways:

  • Make sure your stairs are well lit.
  • Have solid handrails on both sides of the stairway.
  • Remove your reading glasses when you go up or down stairs.
  • Never rush up or down your stairs. Rushing is a major cause of falls.

Around the exterior of your home:

  • Keep front steps and walkways in good repair and free of snow, ice and leaves.
  • Keep the front entrance well-lit.
  • Put gardening implements and other tools away when you are not using them.

Other Tips

Eat healthy Meals: Good nutrition will help keep up your strength, resistance and sense of balance. Get a copy of Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating, and follow the advice about healthy food choices. Do not skip meals. It can make you weak and dizzy, which will increase your risk of falling.

Stay active: Do what you can to maintain your flexibility, balance and strength. Start slowly and build up until you accumulate a total of 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activities on most days. A few short exercise sessions during the day are as valuable as one longer session.

Use medication wisely: Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the possible side-effects of combining prescription drugs with over-the-counter remedies, natural health products, or foods and juices. If your medication makes you dizzy or sleepy, adjust your activities to prevent the risk of falling. Also, ask your doctor whether or not you can drink alcohol with the medications you are taking. Alone or in combination with drugs, the misuse of alcohol can cause falls.

Use Safety Aids: Use devices that can help keep you safe and active. Wear your glasses and hearing aid. Consider using a walker or cane. If using a cane, make sure it is the correct height and has a rubber tip for safety. If you will be walking on icy roads or paths, consider using grippers on your boots and a special ice-cap for your cane with cleats to prevent it from sliding.

If you fall: Try to land on your buttocks to prevent more serious injuries. Make sure you are not injured before you try to get up or let others help you. Also, do not let the fear of falling again prevent you from being active. Inactivity creates an even greater risk of falling.