Many seniors choose to stay in their homes for years after retirement. Living at home provides the comfort of familiar surroundings and enables seniors to maintain independence and control over their lives. But there are some risks associated with living at home. A few simple safeguards can help seniors protect themselves.
1. Know who’s coming to your home
Even if you live in a small town or close-knit community, you will want to stay aware of what’s happening around your home. Keep your doors and windows locked. Verify all visitors to your home before you open the door, if you don’t recognize them. If they claim to represent a company, contact the company to verify their credentials.
If you notice suspicious persons or events in the neighborhood, notify local law enforcement. The police encourage people to stay alert, and prefer that people err on the side of caution, even if it turns out to be just a visiting relative or a hired service person.
If you’re selling items, for example through classified ads, arrange to meet the buyer in a visible, public place if possible, or arrange to have friends or relatives with you if you must meet the buyer in your home.
2. Watch for falling hazards in your home
Household falls are a serious danger for seniors. One in three adults over 65 falls each year and these falls are a leading cause of injury and even death.
Consider removing fall hazards in around your home. Make sure electrical and other cords are not place in walkways. Use handrails when going up and down stairs, or consider installing chair lifts. Make sure handrails are securely fastened and remove smaller throw rugs or secure them in place with tape. Use a walker or cane if you need help with stability.
Other ways to reduce risk of falls are to review medication side effects such as dizziness or light-headedness that can lead to falls; get regular eye exams and keep your eyeglass prescription up to date; wear non-slip shoes with sturdy, but not thick, soles; place mats in showers and on other slippery surfaces; and install grab bars in the bathroom and non-slip strips in the bath or shower.
If you have visual impairments, consider using vibrating or talking clocks and alarms, as well as magnifiers and flashlights. Also make sure there is sufficient lighting around your home. Use daylight or white light for lighting around the home. Daylight and white light bulbs offer higher visibility than yellow or soft light. This applies not only to ambient light bulbs but also smaller lights for reading or other activities.
If you have reduced strength, balance or mobility, consider doing exercises to increase strength, flexibility, balance and more to reduce the chance of falling.
Seniors living alone might consider a Lifeline alarm. Older adults who fall and are unable to get up or call for help can easily wait for hours before help arrives. A portable alarm helps seniors get help promptly.
3. Keep your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in working order
Test the detectors monthly and replace the batteries when needed. If a fire does occur in your home, know how to get out quickly. While it’s tempting to try to put out a fire with a fire extinguisher or other means, the best course of action is to leave the house and call the fire department. Fires can get out of hand quickly, and often fire extinguishers aren’t working or people don’t have experience in using them.
4. Beware of financial errors and fraud
Carefully examine statements from your financial institutions and credit card companies for unexplained charges or discrepancies. If you notice any unexplained charges, promptly contact the company, as it could be an indication that your financial information or identity has been stolen. If appropriate, contact the company’s fraud investigation department and local law enforcement.
Beware if you receive calls purporting to be from a financial institution or government agency. Remember that government agencies and reputable financial institutions will not contact you asking for financial or personal information.
5. Don’t fall for scams
Beware if you receive any unsolicited offers for products or services. Seniors are a prime target for door-to-door salespeople, particularly in the summer months. Carefully investigate and verify any solicitations or offers before providing any information or committing to buying anything. Contact the local better business bureau and investigate the company making the offer. If you have any doubts, don’t divulge any personal details or engage in conversation with the seller, and instead talk with a trusted friend, relative, or financial advisor.
6. Protect your health
Regular health screenings help your physician to detect and begin treating life-threatening medical conditions. Even serious health conditions like breast, prostate, colon and skin cancers are highly treatable if detected early. If you have difficulty in traveling to your healthcare provider for appointments, contact your local senior assistance agency for help.
7. Maintain social interaction
A common risk for seniors living at home is becoming isolated from others. Chronic social isolation has severe negative effects on physical and emotional health. If you don’t have close relatives living nearby, consider becoming active in a social service organization, church, or social club. Classes, hobbies, and volunteer work are good ways to cultivate and maintain social relationships. Additionally, local organizations and government agencies that meet the needs of seniors are able to provide counseling and education.