Fire Safety In The Home: Senior Care Tips

The decision to age in place means seniors remain in the communities and homes they love and requires careful planning to ensure they are safe, cared for, and socially engaged. This includes a thoughtful, detailed, and forward-thinking long-term care plan that includes a fire-safe home with clear plans in case there is an emergency.

According to the US Fire Administration, seniors 65 years old and older are twice as likely to be seriously injured or to die as a result of a house fire. This is due to a combination of age-related factors ranging from poor eyesight, diminished hearing, and mobility issues to dementia or confusion that slows the reflexes 

Creating Fire Safety In An Aging Loved One’s Home

Fire prevention is the first and most effective step in creating fire safety for seniors in the home. Here are tips on how to create a fire-safe home and a well-practiced escape plan.

Functioning smoke detectors

Most house fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke detectors, which should be installed in every room where someone sleeps, one in the hallways outside the rooms where people sleep, on each level of the home, etc. Click Here for specific instructions on adequate smoke detector installation.

Ensure there are an adequate number of working smoke detectors. They should be tested every month using the “test” button, and you can schedule the batteries to be changed every six months via homecare services or local charities that offer that service for free. Your local fire department is an excellent resource to get you started and put you in touch with agencies that offer free or very low-cost smoke detector services for seniors.

Use a vibrating or flashing smoke alarm for those hard of hearing

If a loved one sleeps deeply and/or has any level of hearing loss, install a smoke/fire alarm designed for the hearing impaired. These units should be installed near where they spend their time during the day and near the bed so they can sense it vibrating or flashing when activated.

Insist that people smoke outside

Lit cigarettes are a significant cause of house fires and fire-related fatalities. Due to other significant health concerns, quitting smoking is the best way to prevent cigarette-related fires. However, if a loved one does smoke, try to get them to smoke outside the home on a patio or porch, with access to a fire-proof ashtray/cigarette dispenser that’s changed regularly.

Never leave adults with a dementia diagnosis alone in the home

If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related condition, they should be monitored 24/7. Leaving burners on or unattended is extremely common and a significant fire hazard. Any seniors diagnosed with dementia of any kind should not be left home unattended. 

That includes the night hours as sleep disruptions are common for all seniors, especially those with dementia, as it alters their circadian rhythm. Night walking is common, and any attempt to make food runs the risk of causing a fire.

Use safe home heating methods

The majority of home fires are caused by electrical heaters that short, spark, or are too close to flammable things that go up in flames. Heating the home safely significantly reduces the chance of a house fire.

Forced air heating is the safest option. If your loved one uses an electric space heater:

  • Make sure it has an auto-shut-off feature in case it tips over.
  • Place them on firm, level surfaces (rather than end table tops, bookshelves, or window sills).
  • Keep anything flammable (rugs, pets, children, fabric, etc. at least three feet away from the heating element.

Agree To Kitchen Use Rules

The leading causes of house fires are electrical heaters and kitchen accidents. Kitchen safety is key to preventing fires.

  • Never leave anything cooking on the stovetop. If you need to leave the room, even for a minute, turn the burner(s) off and then back on again when you return.
  • Use a timer whenever you cook to prevent any chances of falling asleep or losing track of time and forgetting something on the stove or in the oven.
  • Keep flammables (kitchen towels, hot pads, trivets, decor, etc.) away from the stovetop.
  • Keep pot handles away from the edge of the stovetop to prevent them from being knocked over.
  • Maintain clean stovetops and oven interiors to keep leftover food/ingredients from catching fire.

If you worry about your loved one’s ability to cook safely, it might be time to consider outside support for meal planning and preparation.

Make And Practice An Escape Plan

A fire escape plan is essential, and then you must practice it. Remember that in the event of a real fire, panic is likely, making it harder to remember what’s been practiced. We recommend practicing the escape plan multiple times and revisiting it every few months to keep the reactions fresh and more automatic.

An escape plan includes:

  • Making sure all of the home’s doors and windows open easily.
  • Anyone with mobility issues should be assigned an escape buddy designated to assist them at the first sound of an alarm.
  • Keep the home free of trip/fall hazards by creating an accessible and safe home for your loved one to age in place.
  • Practicing over and over again to keep it fresh.

Enlist Support From Homecare Professionals 

You don’t have to go this alone. There are so many details and things to think about when an aging loved one decides to age independently in the comfort of their home. Contact HomeAide Home Care to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. 

We’ll help you create a long-term care plan that includes home safety recommendations and an idea of how scaled services can keep your senior loved one as happy, healthy, and socially engaged as possible. Once our caregivers are in place, they can work with you, your loved one, and other family members (and neighbors) to create a fire-safe escape plan.

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