With many more seniors opting to age in their own homes, home safety becomes an even more important consideration.
While issues like home security are universally important regardless of your age, there are some issues that become more of a consideration for elderly people who may be living at home on their own.
According to home insurer Budget Direct, staying safe at home encompasses a number of key areas.
Securing your home from burglars
Home security is a major consideration for older people living in their own home. According to police reports, the most popular items for thieves in Australian homes are cash, laptops, jewellery, cameras, mobile phones, wallets/handbags, ID documents (including credit cards) and televisions.
To avoid becoming a target, keep these items in a safe location rather than obvious and easily accessible spots. A hidden safe can be a good option. Only keep the amount of cash you need and avoid hiding excessive amount of cash around the home.
To keep intruders at bay, install durable locks and security grilles on doors and windows. Even while you’re at home, make sure you lock your doors – especially front screen doors and garage doors.
It’s also worth taking a look at your gardens to see if they are offering potential hiding places for would-be burglars. Trim any shrubs back that are close to your house or opt for more thorny foliage like roses or bougainvillaea in places where thieves might want to gain access.
Fire safety in the home
For many older people who may have lived in their home for a long time, checking that smoke alarms are adequate and in working order is a good idea. In Queensland, new smoke alarm legislation passed in 2017 recommends that photoelectric smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, in hallways connected to bedrooms or between bedrooms when there is no hallway and there should be a smoke alarm on every floor. All smoke alarms should be interconnected and either hardwired or powered by a non-removable 10-year battery.
To minimise fire risk, you should get in the habit of switching off and unplugging unused appliances, clean out dryer lint regularly and make sure you have an electrical safety switch installed in your home.
Being storm ready
Storms in Queensland are a fact of life and regular home maintenance is required to help keep your house safe from destruction.
Get your roof regularly inspected, clear gutters and downpipes of debris and trim tree branches adjacent to your house. If you are unable to do this yourself, ask a friend or family member or a home care provider can organise this for you.
Be storm ready and prepare an emergency storm kit including a portable radio, a torch (with extra batteries), a decent first aid kit and items such as a hammer, nails, wood strips, rope and tarps to make quick emergency repairs. It is also important to add medications, portable valuables and extra clothing to your kit if it becomes obvious you’re going to have to temporarily evacuate your home.
Arrangements for when you’re away from home
If you’re planning on being away from home for an extended amount of time, it’s important to have a trusted family member or friend who can stop by to water the plants, collect the mail and make sure the house remains looking lived in. This can include mowing or raking up leaves if you are away for a longer period of time.
When a stranger knocks on your front door
Unfortunately, some scam artists prey on older people in the community and try and sell them dubious services or products. Reputable service providers and product sellers don’t need to door knock for business, so it’s best to avoid these operators. Also, avoid signing up to any service such as electricity or phone providers at your door.
When someone knocks on the door who you don’t know, it’s wise to leave the screen door shut while you talk to them and only partially open your main door so they can’t see behind you into your house.
Home safety modifications
For elderly people living at home, home modifications to help you remain living independently are a good idea. These can include safety rails on stairs, grab rails and shower seats in bathrooms, non-slip flooring, extra lighting and accessible storage.