It's natural to feel anxious for the safety of elderly friends, relatives and neighbours who live at home, especially if they're not so good on their feet or have difficulty with mobility.
But there are some simple tweaks you can help them make around their house and in their day-to-day lives to keep them safe and hopefully accident-free, as well as giving you some peace of mind.
This Accident Awareness Week, the National Accident Helpline have teamed up with Becky Garwood, Care Practice Development Manager at the not-for-profit care provider Anchor, to give some top healthy and safety tips on looking out for an older friend or relative.
- Keep them moving! Light stretching keeps muscles flexible, while gentle exercise is great for improving strength and balance, all of which can reduce the risk of falling. Encourage your loved one to have a daily stroll outside for fresh air to strengthen up their leg muscles. If they're anxious about going along, offer to go with them or suggest buying a stick to help them along. There are lots of free or low cost exercise and fitness classes available, tailored for older people, so get in contact with your local leisure and community centres.
- Remove trip hazards: Go around the house and identify anything that might lead to a trip such as stray wires and badly-positioned rugs. Having a good de-clutter of rooms will help.
- Find the right footwear: The wrong shoes can be an accident waiting to happen. Make sure that all shoes and slippers fit correctly, and are well looked after.
- Light-it up: Well-lit rooms, hallways and stairways are essential so look to invest in brighter bulbs or buy additional free-standing lights if necessary.
- Grab rails a-go-go: Fitting grab rails in hallways and bathrooms offers support.
- Eat well: It's important for older people to stay well hydrated, and have regular snacks throughout the day for energy. Weight loss can be a real issue for many older people but eating enough hot meals during the winter is so crucial for keeping them well.
In the kitchen:
- Get them a long brush or toothbrush they can use to clean out the food blender – those blades are sharp.
- Keep sharp knives out of the washing up bowl and make sure they are placed in the dishwasher with the blade pointing down.
- Store cleaning products and household chemicals clearly marked so they know what they are.
- Invest in a good quality oven glove for handling saucepans and hot dishes.
- Consider buying silicone oven shelf guards to protect against burns.
- Use back burners or rings whenever possible, and turn pan handles away from the edge of the cooker.
Check out the London Fire Brigade’s tips on preventing fires in the kitchen.
Gardening and DIY:
- Make sure they have appropriate clothing so it doesn’t get caught in tools or machinery.
- Encourage them to not be over ambitious and take on more than they can manage. Better to pay a professional and get the job done safely than land up in A&E!
- Keep them protected from electrocution by always using a residual current device (RCD) when operating electrically-powered garden tools and mowers.
- Watch those toes when mowing the lawn – it is best to wear protective shoes.
Check out Homebase’s safety tips for more great advice on how to avoid unnecessary accidents when doing DIY work.
- Keep charging cables and wires off the floor as they are a tripping hazard.
- Don’t overload sockets and never plug an extension lead into an extension lead.
- While they might find it comforting to keep a phone near the bed in case of emergencies, encourage them not to keep the phone under the pillow at night as it’s a fire hazard.
- Always Use the charger that came with the product. Cheap unbranded chargers can pose a fire risk.
For extra tips on electrical safety check out Electrical Safety First’s range of guides.
- For more consumer advice, grab a copy of Yours.