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Senior Safety Tips: Avoid The Dangers of Fires, Falls and Medication Errors

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenMay 23, 2013

By: Alan Wu

For many seniors, “home, sweet home” can be a dangerous place.  A third of seniors experience one or more falls each year, and their risk of dying in a house fire is 2-3 times the national average. In addition, a quarter of seniors make mistakes in how they store and consume medications.

Bay Alarm Medical’s mascot isn’t called “Grumpy Grandpa” for nothing: the home can be a dangerous place for seniors – but it doesn’t have to be.  What do you do if your relative’s home environment contains hazards? Make it safer!

Use this “Senior Safety Tips” infographic to learn about the causes of senior accidents and get tips to help prevent them.

Help Prevent Senior Medication Errors

As people age, most develop multiple health problems that require them to manage different prescriptions and medication schedules.  Keeping track of what pill to take and when can be confusing for people of any age, but seniors also often deal with vision, hearing or cognitive problems as well; which make the process even more difficult.

In addition, the mere fact of aging changes how the body responds to medication. So it’s no wonder that 26% of seniors make potentially serious medication errors each year.  Help your senior relative reduce the danger of medication errors:

  • Communicate with doctors and pharmacists: A 2006 California study found that senior patients “experience a drug error rate seven times greater than those under 65.” Often, the problem is lack of communication between doctors and other providers. Patients should keep a list of every drug and dosage taken and share it with every doctor and pharmacist they visit. This can help avoid potentially harmful drug interactions.
  • Be alert for food and alcohol interactions: Drugs can also interact with food and drink that is consumed. Note whether a drug should be taken with food or on an empty stomach: that affect how quickly and/or thoroughly the drug is absorbed into the system. Alcohol can enhance drowsiness, affect balance, and slow reaction time, so indulge sparingly — if at all.
  • Check the expiration date: The effectiveness of some drugs — like insulin — degrades as the drug ages. Seniors may not notice the expiration date has passed or may be trying to save money on medications by using every single bit.
  • Store it in a cool, dry place: Ironically, the medicine cabinet is one of the worst places to store medications because the relatively high temperature and humidity in a bathroom can affect the chemical composition of medicines. Avoid storing medications in the bathroom or kitchen and pay attention to instructions about refrigeration.
  • Keep a “Vial of Life” in the home: The kit contains your important medical information that can assist emergency personnel in administering the proper medical treatment. First responders will have your medical history at their fingertips.  The Vial of Life tells a patient’s story even if she isn’t able to.

Preventing Senior Falls

Almost a third of seniors will experience one or more falls this year and 57% who have fallen will fall again within the next year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, falls are the leading cause of injury death for senior adults. An active lifestyle can reduce the likelihood of falls, but doesn’t completely eliminate the danger. Here are other ways to help seniors avoid falls:

  • Get regular eye exams: Bifocal lens can distort depth perception, particularly when the wearer is going down stairs or downhill.  Seniors should have their eyes checked at least once a year and consider getting single vision lens for wear during outside activities.
  • Maintain steps & install ramps and railings: Home hazards include stairs, poor lighting, slippery surfaces, and uneven floors.  Check for all these problems inside the home and at entrances.
  • Review prescription medications: Some medications affect balance and alertness. Ask doctors and pharmacists about drug side effects and interactions.
  • Wear a medical alert button:  In 2012, US mail carrier Mario Serrano rescued an 87-year-old woman who had fallen in her bathroom and spent two days wedged between her bathtub and toilet. If a fall does happen, a medical alert button allows your relative to call for help immediately.

Seniors and Fire Safety

For seniors 65 and older, the risk of dying in a fire is twice the national average — and seniors 75 and older are at three times the risk. Just a few simple precautions help make a home safer from fires:

  • Working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms are one of the most important fire safety devices for the home, but seniors may need more than a basic alarm.  Newer alarms use a combination of visual cues (such as flashing lights) and audio to alert seniors to danger.
  • Never smoke in bed. Between 2006 and 2010, only 7% of reported home fires started in a bedroom, but these accounted for 25% of deaths. Of course, quitting is the best option, but alternatively, encourage your relative to either smoke outside the house or smoke only when wide-awake and outside the bedroom.
  • Be careful with space heaters.  Keep space heaters and other heat sources away from flammable objects and furniture.

As we age, it’s important to stay healthy.  It’s just as important to stay safe.  For many seniors, these simple precautions and modifications will help them stay safe and independent in their homes.

About Bay Alarm Medical

For over 60 years, Bay Alarm Medical Alert Systems singular mission has been to protect the most important things in life — family, health and independence. We pride ourselves in providing the highest level of safety and medical alert services. All of our clients are fully protected with industry-leading medical alert alarm systems and backed by one of the nation’s most reliable 24 hour medical alert emergency call centers.

We welcome your comments below.

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Dana Larsen
Dana Larsen
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