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Fire Safety For Seniors & Older Adults: The Dangers & Best Practices

Fire Safety for Seniors & Older Adults: The Dangers & Best Practices

In-home fire safety procedures and tips are an important area of knowledge for everyone. But because seniors and older adults are at an increased risk from fires, it’s vital to be aware of safety procedures that take into account the specific challenges, developments, and difficulties that are brought on by age. 

The Dangers of Fires for Older Adults

Statistics show that those people who are 65 and older are at almost three times the risk for injury or death because of home fires, when compared to the general adult population. This risk is almost quadruple for adults who are 85 and older. 

In total numbers, this risk equates to an average of 2,000 injuries and 1,000 deaths caused by home fires for adults 65 and above each year. 

Seniors’ increased risk from fires is caused by many of the conditions that naturally arise for all of us as we age. As we age, we often experience decreases in mobility, health challenges, and potential loss of acute sensory awareness (such as, vision, hearing, etc.). 

All of these features of aging can make it more difficult for seniors to be aware of, and respond quickly to, an in-home fire. 

Fire Safety Best Practices for Seniors

Despite these increased risks, there are a number of best practices that older adults, and those providing care for seniors, can enact in order to decrease the risk from in-home fires.

The Importance of Smoke Alarms

As with all fire safety, smoke alarms are one of the most useful tools to help seniors survive an in-home fire without injury. 

Because undetected smoke can actually cause any sleeping residents to go into a deeper state of unconsciousness, smoke detectors with built-in alarms are critical. In the case of seniors who have hearing loss, a smoke detector close to their bed and anywhere else that they might sleep is important. 

The chance of surviving an in-home fire nearly doubles when residents are given advanced warning by a functioning smoke alarm. Therefore, it is recommended that smoke alarms be installed throughout the home and regularly maintained. 

Changing batteries at least once each year and testing the alarm monthly are the best ways to ensure the advantages of an early warning. A caregiver may need to maintain any alarms that are out of reach for residents with mobility issues.

Develop and Practice a Fire Plan

When a fire is spreading in your home, you want to have the advantage of forethought and a well-constructed plan for exiting the residence. It’s important to know the best exits from each point in the home. Planning at least two ways to safely leave each room is ideal. 

Older adults who have decreased mobility will need to ensure that each exit is accommodating to them, when developing a fire plan. For example, if a person uses a walker, cane, or wheelchair, they should confirm that all pre-planned exits are appropriately wide, have ramp access if needed, and do not require the use of any stairs that will make exiting difficult in an emergency.

Once the fire plan is in place, it is crucial to practice the plan to help solidify it in memory. Enacting the plan and practicing exiting the home through pre-planned routes will make it more likely that you will remember your fire plan in an actual emergency. 

Organize Contacts

A less obvious, but equally important, part of fire safety is preparing any useful telephone numbers and keeping them handy in case of a fire. 

Important contact numbers may include: the local fire department, neighbors, and family members. 

By understanding the risks and enacting smart preparations that take into account the specific needs of seniors and older adults, the chances of escaping an in-home fire without injury are greatly increased.

If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices throughout California including: Campbell, CARoseville, CASan Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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