Weatherford Democrat


August 2, 2011

Home safety for the elderly

WEATHERFORD — The end result is very dire for the elderly who do not practice home safety. A fall or burn can be extremely dangerous for the elderly person; long hospitalization or even an early death can be expected.

There are many things around the home that can cause serious safety problems for elderly people, and most of them can easily be rectified for little or no cost.

We older people do not lift our feet as high when walking as we did when we were young. As they get older some even shuffle along. That makes it very easy to trip over such things as throw rugs. They might not seem very high, but the elderly can easily trip over those, so as many as possible should be eliminated from the home. Those you feel are necessary should have non-slip backing and be as thin as possible. When waxing is necessary on wood, tile or composition flooring, a non-slip wax should be used.

Every year, many folks are seriously injured or pass away from burns received in their own home. Follow these tips and this type of injury can be eliminated.

While using a gas stove, never remove a pot or skillet from a burner before turning the gas flame off. Towels and clothes, especially fuzzy ones, flame up very quickly when in contact with flame. You should not use those types of towels or wear that type of clothing while using a stove.

Never walk away from a stove when heating oil for cooking; this is one of the big causes of home fires.

Another cause is cigarettes being smoked in bed. This is always a no-no. It is very bad for your health as well as your home.

Discard or repair any pot or pan with a loose handle.

At night before retiring, always check your burner knobs to be sure they are all the way off.

All homes should have workable smoke and carbon dioxide alarms. If because of your age you are not able to service your alarms or are not sure if you are adequately protected, call your local fire department and they will assist you.

Bathtubs and showers are the source of many falls in the home. The installation of non-slip bath mats and handhold bars will prevent most falls if used. These items are inexpensive and are really needed by those elderly with balance problems. Avoid making long reaches for anything; you may lose your balance and fall.

Always rinse the tub or shower well after using or they will become very slippery the next time they are wet. A radio or electric appliance should never be placed where it might fall into water, as an electrocution can be the result. The young and the old should pay much attention to bathroom safety.

Furniture can also be a safety problem in the home. Small furniture items such as an ottoman should not be left out in a travel area, when not in use they should be moved to a non-travel part of the room to prevent falls. A person may forget where they are and fall over them, especially in low lighting or the dark.

Once an elderly person has difficulty getting up out of a chair or sofa, a portable chair lift should be provided. A person struggling to get out of a chair or sofa can lose their balance easily.

Elderly people should wear tight, good fitting shoes. Loose fitting shoes, such as flip-flops and sandals, should not be worn. Stepping on something while wearing loose fitting footwear can cause a fall.

One bad thing I have seen in most homes is the placing of shoes, towels, clothing and other items too numerous to mention on stairways. This should never be done because in low light, a person may not see the items and fall up or down the stairs.

Proper, adequate lighting is very necessary for the elderly. Their vision is more impaired than it is in younger folks. We all like to turn off the lights in order to keep our electric bill as low as possible, and this is a good thing. However it can cause a problem for the elderly, so they should have adequate lighting at all times. Proper lighting is also necessary for good reading, so the proper bulbs should be used in reading lamps. They should wear glasses for both distance and reading in order to see items they might fall over that they forgot were there. Good lighting also helps the elderly find things like their glasses, cell phone and yes, their teeth. A night-light should be used in the bedroom, bathroom and hallway. These small lights prevent disorientation at night.

A safe home will always be a happy one. Let’s keep it that way.

Guest columnist William J. Kelly is a Parker County resident and served as 2nd Lt. in World War II in the Eighth Air Force of the US Army/Air Corp. You may e-mail him at

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