Whether they live by themselves, with caregivers, or in an assisted living center, we still worry about our loved ones. That’s just part of caring about someone and basic human nature.
Many residents of Van Nuys and elsewhere will continue to worry about close friends or family especially if they are unable to take care of them themselves for various reasons.
The team at Accredited Home Care understands this constant concern and, as a home health provider since 1980, we do our best to let families know their loved ones are always in good hands. We also provide support to their loved ones.
This goes beyond creating emotional and social connections, which are both valuable, and actually giving people pointers on how to live independently.
This includes a big focus on safety since this is critical when families and clients are determining whether someone should keep on living by themselves or if they need to relocate to a different type of living arrangement.
Seniors living by themselves can face physical challenges in their home environment, such as a risk of falling, injuring themselves, or being unable to get help. Balance problems can also occur.
Those dealing with dementia may also accidentally injure themselves, everything from tripping over furniture to eating spoiled food. (Spoiled food could also be caused by poor lighting so someone might find it difficult to read expiration labels or look closely at food quality.)
High fire risk
One of the more serious risk factors that people living independently can face is fire. A blaze can start quickly and do a lot of damage to people and the environment fast, sometimes before people notice it. Even if actual flames don’t break out, seniors are still at high risk for burning themselves. Even a burn that could be minor on a younger person in better health may be especially damaging for seniors.
Factors can include:
- They might do fine when they turn on a burner or oven but forget to turn it off when they’re done cooking or if there are distractions. They may forget to grab a pot holder when holding a hot pan or pot.
- Slower reflexes and poor coordination. They may have diminished physical strength or poor balance which could cause them to drop something they’re carrying, such as pan of hot water, or touch a hot surface as they’re falling. They may not be able to react as quickly when a fire breaks out.
- Poor lighting. They may not notice if a range or oven is on or something is boiling.
- Poor sensitivity. They may not be able to tell if something is too hot to hold or touch, such as warm water or hot water. They may not even be able to process pain like they used to.
- Skin changes. The American College of Surgeons has reported that as we age, our skin loses follicles and becomes looser, which means it’s more likely to suffer deeper burns when burns occur and also doesn’t heal as well.
- Other medical conditions. Medical impairment such as heart diseases can cause poor healing and slower reflexes. Conditions that cause spontaneous tremors, seizures or falling can also contribute to the risk of fires or burning.
- Besides being bad for your health in general, the act of lighting and smoking a cigarette can increase the risk of fire and burns, especially for those using oxygen tanks.
Dealing with burns
Because seniors are at such a high risk for fires or burns, several private and public organizations are always looking for ways to educate people about how to minimize these dangers in their homes.
The ACS, for instance, encourages medical professionals to give out information to their senior patients warning of the risks of burns and ways to avoid them.
There are also some environmental changes that can be put in place, such as removing candles, lighters, and matches and replacing some items with battery-powered candles; switching to a gas stove instead of an open flame, or working with a plumber to lower the home’s overall hot water temperature slightly so the hottest water coming out of the tap isn’t going to be scalding.
Having full-time or part-time caregivers or home health care aides certainly can help, especially if they assist with meal prep and clean-up. The client can still be involved since this is part of their independence, but they will have supervision.
Having fire prevention tools and first-aid items near the source of potential fires can be a smart idea. This could be in the kitchen that’s easy to reach when a fire does happen or afterward. A first-aid kit with burns in mind can include ointment, gauze, and more. This could include a way to contact people if they fall or hurt themselves or if a fire breaks out that they can’t handle.
This month is an excellent time to learn more about ways to encourage loved ones to enjoy their freedom but still make sure they remain as safe as possible. February is National Senior Independence Month, an annual occasion to provide seniors with useful resources.