As winter approaches and we drag out the heaters and put our clothes dryers to good use, Home Instead believe it’s an opportune time to check your home is safe and sound for the months ahead.

It’s a fact that elderly people tend to feel the cold more than younger generations.

This is often because as we age, our skin begins to thin, as does the layer of fat just below the skin.

Furthermore many medications can reduce the heart rate and blood flow, leading to poor circulation especially to the hands and feet.

Because they feel the cold more, seniors are at greater risk of danger in the winter months.

In an attempt to get warm and stay warm, they are at risk of incurring an injury, such as tripping over a blanket that they’ve draped over their legs, scalding themselves on hot water bottles or heat packs, burning themselves on heaters and electric blankets, and more.

Worse still they could suffer a nasty shock from a faulty heating appliance that could short and cause a house fire.

It’s a sobering fact that 40% of all deaths from fire happen during winter. Coupled with the fact that almost one in three fire fatalities involve people over 65 years of age, it’s clear that we must be extra-vigilant of our loved ones from June through to September.

Fire Safety Tips For Seniors

  1. Check all heaters – gas and electric – at the start of every winter for wear & tear, and safe operation.
  2. Never use a portable outdoor gas heater in a room without inadequate ventilation or extraction, as toxic gasses may build up.
  3. Ensure that heaters are in a safe, stable location where people or pets can’t accidentally knock them over.
  4. Never use a heater to warm or dry towels or clothes – in fact keep all flammable materials (curtains, tablecloths, etc) at least a metre away.
  5. Make sure your aged loved ones know TWO safe ways out of every room in their home.
  6. Install smoke alarms throughout their home – preferably wired in – and test them regularly.
  7. Create a written home fire escape plan and have drills often, especially at the start of winter.
  8. Never leave candles burning unattended
  9. Never use a stove or gas oven as a room heater.
  10. Familiarise your loved ones with the STOP, DROP, ROLL principal in case – heaven forbid – their clothing ever catches fire. Also remind them to keep as low as possible to avoid smoke inhalation.
  11. Ensure lint filters in clothes driers are cleaned regularly, as the lint can build up and catch fire.
  12. Remember that almost half of all house fires start in the kitchen, so be particularly vigilant there.
  13. If their home has a fireplace, ensure the chimney is clean and unblocked. Always use a screen and never burn plastics, foam, CCA-treated or creosote-treated timber in a fireplace.

Electrical safety

  1. Install electrical trip switches in case an appliance (eg. a heater) shorts.
  2. Never overload power points with piggy back double adapters which could overload the supply.
  3. Make sure to turn off electrical appliances – particularly irons and toasters – when not in use. If possible, buy irons with automatic cut off.
  4. Check electric blankets thoroughly at the start of each season. Visit the Recalls Australia website for lists of faulty blankets that can overheat, cause a shock, burn or start a fire. Inspect it by laying it out flat on the bed, turning it on and checking for hot spots.
  5. Roll electric blankets rather than fold them when not in use.
  6. If possible, only use an electric blanket to take the chill out of the sheets before getting into bed; avoid sleeping with it on.

Burns safety

  1. Use hot – never boiling – water to fill hot water bottles
  2. Replace hot water bottles every two years, more if used regularly. They may LOOK ok, but the rubber could be perished on the inside.
  3. Wrap hot water bottles in a towel or pillow case to avoid direct contact with skin.
  4. Never place heat packs in microwaves for longer that the specified time.
  5. Never reheat them before they have cooled down sufficiently.
  6. Replace heat packs regularly as the filling may have become old, dry and combustible.

In an emergency call 000 for an ambulance or fire service.

In the meantime, please download and familiarise yourself with this comprehensive Burns and Scalds Fact Sheet (PDF) compiled by St Johns Ambulance Australia.

Learn more about Making Home Safer for Seniors or contact your local Home Instead office to discuss any home safety concerns you may have.