The most dangerous place for seniors is their own home. This is why you need to take steps to keep yourself or your loved ones safe if you want them to be able to safely age in place. But what should you protect them from?
Here are the most common in-home injuries for seniors and tips on how to prevent them:
The most common cause of accidental death in the United States is poisoning. The classic cause is a child eating medicine like candy or drinking household chemicals. Adults with dementia can get into trouble because they forget that they already took their medication, so they take even more.
In other cases, they choose to take more pain pills or mix over the counter meds with prescription medication rather than paying expensive medical bills to get the root cause addressed. Then the person dies of a drug overdose.
An underappreciated problem is poisoning via household chemicals. An older person may pass out while cleaning with undiluted household chemicals, whether they’re cleaning the sink or the shower. Someone who can’t see well might make the fatal mistake of mixing bleach with ammonia, creating chloramine gas. In layman’s terms, you can call it mustard gas.
Choking is one of the most common causes of accidental death in the U.S. If you live alone, it isn’t much you can do aside from cutting up your food smaller and not talking while you eat. Older adults may need thickeners to swallow liquids without the risk of aspiration, though supervision may be necessary, as well.
On the flipside, suffocation is almost impossible for adults, though it is a threat for young children.
Falls are the leading cause of home injury death. They’re also a leading cause of emergency room visits, whether someone falls and breaks their hip or gets a concussion. If your loved one is losing their balance or mobility, you should consider installing grab bars in the bathroom.
You might convert the standard tub into a walk-in model or a walk-in shower. This doesn’t eliminate the need to keep everything dry, so you may want to hire an aid to help them bathe or a housekeeper to keep things picked up. If your loved one is hurt in a slip and fall despite this assistance, then the service you hired to make things safer is to blame. Consult with an attorney.
For adults having trouble climbing stairs, you can install a lift or rearrange their home so they can live on the first story. Or move into a one-story apartment.
Fires are a common cause of accidental death. For someone with dementia, the threat tends to be leaving a burner on or a burning candle out. Leaving the furnace on without lighting it or leaving the gas running to the burner without making sure it ignites can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
In both cases, you can have detectors in place. However, this doesn’t eliminate the need to practice evacuations with the loved one and set up systems that call for help if they have to flee a burning house.