Home Safe Home   

Home Safe Home

Make your home safe for young kids and the elderly. All it takes is careful planning and making appropriate changes in your home.
Rod, 81, suffers from a condition that makes his muscles weak and rigid and his movements slow. He walks short, shuffling steps with arms held stiffly at the sides. He stands with his trunk slightly bent as if he would, at anytime, trip over. "I feel dizzy most of the time. I remember falling on my buttocks twice," says Rod. "And I fear falling again."

Rod belongs to the accident-prone segment of the population because his physical capabilities have changed and he spends most of his time at home. The rising number of nuclear families in the workforce may lead to the elderly being left alone in the home.

The elderly and the very young are more likely to experience preventable home hazards, according to a BBC report. More people die in the home every week than in road accidents, the report noted.
Caring for the young and the elderly is not only about protecting them but also allowing them a degree of control and independence. The home needs to be transformed into a safe and accident-free place.

Accidents are the No. 1 health hazard for children. Accidents account for more than one-third of childhood deaths between ages land 14-more than the five leading fatal diseases combined. They also cause permanent or temporary disabilities. Children up to the age of 5 years commonly become victims of injuries in the home. These happen quickly and are more likely to occur when adults caring for the child are under stress, in a rush or when routines change.

Raquel from the Philippines, 55-year-old mom to two daughters recounts her children's experience with home accidents: "My eldest first got the shock of her life when she was barely 3 years old. She took a hairclip left on the table by accident and put it in a power outlet. My youngest, nearly 4 then, wanted to help with house chores. She took a broomstick and started sweeping the floor. I didn't notice that she was already near the staircase. She fell about seven steps down the first floor."

Falls from heights, drowning and traffic-related injuries comprise the top three reasons for death among children.

Common home hazards:
• Crowded or cluttered furniture
• Furniture with sharp edges
• Sharp objects, such as knives, left on table tops
• Containers with water
• Lack of window grilles or window locks (for flats or apartment level 2 and above)

Get down on your hands and knees and explore each room at your child's level. Childproofing can never be 100 percent effective. The American Medical Association and Safe USA recommend the following to protect your child.

To prevent water accidents:
• Keep a close watch on young children when they swim, play or bathe in the water. Never leave them in the care of another child.
• Teach your older children to always swim with a buddy.
• Remind young children that eating or chewing gum while swimming can cause choking.
• Install a pool fence with self-latching gates around the swimming pool.
• Remove balls and toys from the pool immediately after use. This may tempt the child to lean into the pool and fall in.
• Make sure you empty all buckets, pails and bathtubs completely after use. An infant or toddler can drown in as little as 1 inch of water.
• Set your water heater to a temperature that will not scald the skin. Test the temperature by dipping your elbow in a tub of water.
To prevent other accidents:
• Put babies in a safe place such as on the floor or in a crib with secured guardrails. Babies can roll off furniture and hurt themselves.
• Follow instructions for use of baby equipment to prevent strangulation from straps, such as those in high chairs and strollers.
• Avoid putting any toys or soft bedding in infants' cribs as they may contribute to suffocation.
• Install soft flooring or nonskid rugs around your child's crib or bed.
• Consider using a "stationary walker" instead of a baby walker. According to a 1997 research, baby walker-related injuries resulted in more than 16,000 children receiving treatment in hospital emergency rooms.
• Place tables and chairs away from windows.
• Use child gates at the top or the bottom of stairs to block access to stairways.

Falls can be a major life-changing event in the elderly and is one of the leading health concerns for the aging population. Falls can happen anytime and anyplace to people of any age. But for people age 65 and older, two thirds to one-half of falls occur in or around the home, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. But certain factors affect the elderly and make them more likely to fall. These include age-related changes, specific medical conditions, medications and environmental hazards.

Age-related changes include:
• A decrease in height, which can be attributed to osteoporosis, can change the elderly's posture, center of gravity and gait.
• Considerable loss of muscle mass will decrease muscle strength and tone.
• Reduction in water content and synovial fluid in tendons, ligaments and joints may likely increase stiffness and decrease the range of motion.
• Decrease of cerebellar cells (Purkinje) and impaired sensory reactions may impair coordination and balance.
• More rigid and smaller iris, yellowing of the lens and decreased light adaptation and depth perception impairs the ability to detect and avoid potential hazards.
• Impacted cerumen and the calcification of ear mechanisms may lead to an inability to perceive hazards.
Medical conditions such as dementia, or memory loss, lead the elderly to be forgetful, confused and worrisome. Other diseases or disorders that may lead to falls:
• Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias)
• Blood pressure changes
• Cancer of the bones
• Depression
• Alzheimer's disease
• Arthritis
• Parkinson's disease
• Urinary and bladder dysfunction
• Vision or hearing loss

Medications may worsen a known problem in the elderly, such as dizziness. Certain medicines induce delirium, depression and falls. These include:
• Antianxiety drugs
• Antihypertensives
• Benzodiazepines
• Beta-blockers
• Cimetidine
• Clonidine
• Digoxin
• Diuretics
• Levodopa
• Methyldopa
• Neuroleptics
• Nitrates
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
• Reserpine

To prevent accidents in the elderly, watch out for potential hazards in the home.
• Move furniture from the center of the rooms and keep hallways free of cords to prevent accidental bumps and trips. Keep the home simple.
• A person with dementia may forget that the stove is lit and leave it unattended, which may lead to a fire. Restrict access to the kitchen when it's not in use.
• keep poisons and cleaning agents in a locked cabinet.
• Improve lighting in bathrooms, hallways and bedrooms.
• Use nonslip mats in the shower.
• Consider buying appliances with auto-stop features or keep a timer in the kitchen.
• Use a corkboard to post important numbers that you may need in an emergency.

While there is no such thing as a completely accident free home, major accidents can be avoided. All it takes is careful planning and carrying out appropriate changes in your home. Caring for the young and elderly involves recognizing their changing needs and ensuring their safety.

Keep a first aid kit in your home. To make sure you have complete supplies, check for:
• First aid manual
• Sterile gauze
• Adhesive tape
• Adhesive bandages in several sizes
• Elastic bandage
• Anti septic wipes
• Soap
• Antibiotic cream
• Antiseptic solution
• Hydrocortisone cream (1%)
• Paracetamol (acetaminophen) and aspirin (aspirin is not recommended for children under age 12)
• Tweezers
• Sharp scissors
• Safety pins
• Disposable instant cold packs
• Calamine lotion
• Ethyl alcohol
• Thermometer
• Plastic gloves
• Flash light and extra batteries
• List of emergency phone numbers
• Mouthpiece for administering CPR 

Happy reading,

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