Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Senior Safety 101

Senior Safety 101

Top tips for keeping senior citizens safe

Senior Pedestrian Safety

Daily walking is among the best ways for senior citizens to keep active. As simple as walking is, though, it can be very dangerous for seniors. There are many physical changes that occur making it difficult for them to be safe when walking. These include:

* The ability to move quickly, stop suddenly or just general maneuvering decreases because reflexes and reaction time get slower.

* Failing eyesight, including diminished peripheral vision, and hearing loss pose their own set of problems. These changes can make it difficult to see or hear cars and judge how fast they are going.
* Falls are more likely to occur, and getting up may require assistance.
* Medications may impact the ability to walk.To help ensure safety while walking, it is important to consider these basic factors:
* Walk on sidewalks if available, or walk facing traffic if they are not available.
* Cross only at street corners, preferably those with a traffic light, and within marked crosswalks.
* Wear bright-colored or reflective clothing, especially if walking at night.
* Avoid walking in the dark and in bad weather conditions such as snow, rain, ice, or fog.
* Look left, right, and left again before crossing the street. Beware of vehicles turning or backing up.
* Make eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of a vehicle. Stay out of the driver's blind spot.
* Pay attention to the "Walk/Don't Walk" signals. Walk and cross with other pedestrians whenever possible.
* Wear proper and well-maintained footwear with non-slip soles.

Home Safety - Protect Against Falls and Fires

Avoid Falls - Falls are not just the result of getting older. They are generally caused by a number of factors, most of which are avoidable. By changing some things, you can lower the risk of falling. Approximately 50% of all falls happen in the home. Here are some easy ways to make your home safer, particularly for older adults.

* Remove scatter rugs and use double-sided tape to keep remaining rugs from sliding. This is of particular importance in the bathroom. Use a non-slip bath mat with a rubberized bottom on the floor and in the bathtub or shower. Loose scatter rugs are the cause of many falls.
* Install grab bars next to toilets and in the tub or shower.
* Improve the lighting in your home. Aging mandates the need for brighter lights to augment vision. Bright lighting in kitchen work areas reduces the risk of burns and cuts. Use at least 60-watt bulbs in most rooms and at least 100-watt bulbs for reading. Place night lights through key pathways in the home. Lamp shades or frosted bulbs can reduce glare, which is especially important for people with glaucoma or cataracts.
* Make steps stand out. Put in sturdy handrails and lights on all staircases. Remove clutter and other common things that could cause someone to trip (such as shoes, newspapers, books, and clothes). Try to make steps easy to see. One idea is to use brightly colored electrical tape to mark the edge of each step. A sunlit window at the top or bottom of a staircase can cause glare, making it more difficult to see the steps. Close the window shade if possible and/or brighten the overhead lighting.
* Hide electrical cords by moving lamps and other appliances closer to the walls so that electrical cords don't extend into traffic areas. Cords may be difficult to see by older adults with low vision and could be a tripping hazard. If a cord must be extended across an area where seniors will walk, use tape to secure the cord to the floor and attract attention to it. Do not cover the cord with a rug.
* Move bedroom lamps closer to the bed. Lamps and lighting in the bedroom should be easily reached from the bed so that it is not necessary to walk from the light switch to the bed in the dark.
* Keep items in reach. Avoid the need of having to use a chair or step stool to access frequently-used items in cabinets and closets.

Avoid Fires

* Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms throughout the house. Test them periodically to make sure they work. Batteries should be changed at least once a year.
* Place fire extinguishers in the kitchen and other rooms, and be sure that you know how to use them.
* Keep flammable objects such as curtains, aprons and dishtowels away from stoves.
* Never wear loose clothing near a stovetop while cooking.
* Never leave cooking unattended; don’t cook if tired.
* When cooking, heat oil slowly. Heating oil too quickly can easily start a fire.
* If a pan catches fire, carefully place a lid over the pan and turn off the heat. Leave the lid on until completely cool.
* Always clean appliances and surfaces after cooking to prevent grease buildup. Make sure handles on cookware are secured and always turned toward the center of the stove when cooking.
* Turn off appliances when they are not in use.
* Run electrical cords along walls, not under rugs. Don't overload outlets and extension cords.
* Do not store flammable liquids like cleaning agents and paint supplies near heating units.
* Keep space heaters a safe distance from combustibles. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's guidelines when using them.

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