In today’s newspaper, this was one of the headlines. My first response was this is so sad and could it have been prevented? Moreover, since this happened in a senior living complex with over 400 units, my second thought was thank God no one else was injured.
Home fire safety is something all of us need to be aware of at all times. The internet and our local fire departments have many checklists for those of us to use for our well being. However, for seniors that might have diminished energy, mobility or cognitive issues due to early stages of Alzheimer’s or related dementia, it is critical for families to help with safety evaluations. Medications and the use of pain medications could reduce response time to evacuate in the event of a fire for anyone, not just older adults.
If you are a family member who oversees or is concerned about a frail older adult, these are some steps you could take to reduce the risk of accidents, especially fires.
- In today’s story, the cause seems to be a leaky propane tank. Many grills have this type of tank attached to them. If you or your family member uses one, check it and make sure the tank is secure and not turned on or is leaking monthly. It is a good idea to detach the tank in the winter and store it in a safe place outdoors and away from flames and other heat sources. Install a gas detector that detects carbon monoxide and propane gas leakage. Please see the many safety precautions that came with your tank and can be found on the internet. Click here to read safety tips.
- If your family member is a smoker, assess their safety around smoking. Smoking outdoors only is a good first step. Even better is to stop smoking altogether. If they are cognitively challenged by a dementia, I highly recommend that families with the help of physicians just take away the smoking. This is a challenge and engaging some help from professional care managers, physicians, and sometimes a nicotine patch can help.
- Can your family member safely cook meals? When do they cook and what are they wearing? Memory issues can be a “fire hazard” – you must be aware of pots on the stove or how and what to put in a microwave oven. Hiring a caregiver to prepare meals that can be heated in a microwave and having only glass safety containers in the home could prevent an issue with the warming of foods. This might be someone who comes in for just a few hours but cooks for the entire day.
- Clutter can be a fire hazard especially if near candles (eliminate all those that need to be lighted and replace them with battery powered timer types). Clutter can be dangerous if other flammable items are near as well. Clutter can prevent a quick exit to safety if a fire alarm is set off. Removing clutter can be a physiological challenge, and with the help of a professional care manager, you can be more successful especially if fire safety is your goal and not “control.”
- Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be checked every six months. Change the batteries every year even if you checked and they were good. Change them the week of your family member’s birthday to assure it is done regularly.
At Eldercare Services our professional Care Managers provide a home safety evaluation when they set up services for no extra fees. We look at more than just fire safety; preventing falls is another focus of a proper home safety evaluation.
Our thoughts go out to the family of the gentlemen who lost his life in this tragic event. Our wishes are for all of us to become more aware of what we can do to prevent these occurrences in the lives of those we love.
Please give Eldercare Services a call if you have any safety concerns for an older adult you worry about.