Our top 10 tips for keeping your elderly relatives safe at home this winter

23 January 2018

Our top 10 tips for keeping your elderly relatives safe at home this winter

Winter can be a difficult time for the elderly living at home, but we’ve compiled our top ten tips for making sure the elderly feel safe at home.

The clocks have gone back, the nights have drawn in and it feels like winter is very much upon us. For the elderly, the dark evenings can bring out feelings of anxiety, as they feel more isolated at home after dark. But there are a number of ways that you can help – here we’ve rounded up our top ten tips for making your loved ones feel more secure at home this winter.

1. Purchase a new alarm system.

Give them the peace of mind that once they’ve shut the door at night, they are safe and secure from intruders. A number of self-install alarm systems now come with wirelessly linked accessories which can be used to create a bespoke system, such as door and window sensors and PIR motion sensors. Adding these extra features means that all downstairs access points can be covered, as well as driveways and paths. No one wants to think of burglars creeping around their property at night, but being prepared and alerted early can be the best prevention to stop an intruder before they try to break in. There are customisable ways you can activate or deactivate your alarm too – use a remote control key fob if memory problems mean that an activation code might be an issue, or a contactless tag if arthritis makes pressing buttons difficult.

2. Install Motion lights.

Motion-activated lights are a simple way to give the elderly more confidence after dark. Great for driveways or back gardens, these easy to install lights activate when motion is detected. You can even get battery operated or solar powered ones, if you don’t want the hassle of getting an electrician to wire one in. Be aware of the angle of the lights however, as they can be a nuisance to neighbours if they shine into their homes.

3. Chains and door bars.

Adding a security chain or door bar to front doors provides an extra barrier of physical security if they have to open the door after dark. Remind them not to leave them on overnight however – they can prevent family and the emergency services from gaining access to the house in the event of an emergency.

4. Secret knock.

Honeywell Home offers a clever ‘secret knock’ function on our range of wireless doorbells which is a great security feature for the elderly. It works via the door push; if the button is pressed three times in quick succession, a different, pre-selected chime will sound, so that the resident knows that it is a friend, family member or carer at the door and that it’s safe to answer.

5. Torches/Lanterns.

It’s always a good idea to keep torches or battery-powered lanterns easily available just in case there is ever a power cut overnight. Keep one upstairs and one downstairs so that there’s always light to hand and no one has to travel any distance to find anything in the dark, which could lead to accidents and falls. If any of the residents needs to use an electric stair lift, make sure they have a ‘care pack’ available upstairs in case of power cuts that may leave them stranded for any length of time. Include a torch, a bottle of water and some food, some basic medical supplies and a means to contact anyone for help if needed, like a mobile phone or an old-fashioned corded telephone (as newer cordless phones may not work in a power cut).

6. Home improvements.

Address home improvements quickly to avoid any risk of injury. Be wary of things such as loose carpets, slippy mats, hanging wires and low-level obstructions. Add grab bars where necessary to help with steps, or in the bathroom where they may need extra help with stability.

7. Get a bath thermometer.

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the temperature of the water, and this can lead to scalds and injuries. Ones meant for baby baths can be great for this – they often use brightly coloured and easy to read indicators to show if the bath water is at a safe temperature. They float too, so they’re easy to retrieve.

8. Bath or shower mats.

Cheap but so effective for avoiding slipping in the bath or shower. In some cases, using a bath or shower seat can provide even more stability and safety when bathing.

9. Check smoke alarms and install carbon monoxide alarms.

If they have smoke alarms installed make sure they are checked regularly. The Fire Service can often offer free smoke alarms to the elderly – contact your local Fire Service representative to see if your relative qualifies for a free ‘Safe and Well’ home visit, where they will receive advice on fire safety and evacuation advice in the event of an incident.

10. Finally, consider the purchase of a personal alarm system.

There are a number available on the market, usually involving a one-off set-up cost, and then a small maintenance fee per month. However, if you have an elderly relative who lives alone with a medical condition, a personal alarm could be an invaluable purchase in the event of an emergency. There are different systems, but most include a small button worn around the neck on a lanyard, or carried in the pocket, which can be pressed in the event of a medical emergency, a fall or other incident. The button can alert a call centre who will dispatch emergency carer help, a relative or neighbour who can come round to assist, or in some cases connect straight to the emergency services. Speak to your GP about the kinds of services available in your area, as they may be able to provide recommendations and further advice specific to your needs.

Considering the needs of the elderly living at home can, ultimately, give them an increased quality of life and give you the peace of mind that they are safe and happy in the surroundings that they are familiar with. If you have any concerns about an elderly relative or would like further advice on how to help make their home environment safer this winter, then visit ageuk.org.uk