This is the SECOND of two blog posts regarding senior safety and home care. LAST WEEK concentrateD on preventing physical injury, such as falls. THIS week's post will focus on "Seasonal Reminders".
Everyone has heard of Spring cleaning. Another time that is perfect for organizing your life and home is Fall. It's important to pick a consistent time of year to put things in order. This consistency will make it easier for you to remember, which can be difficult for seniors as they age in their homes. A Caregiver or Companion can help with these tasks. As a STEPS client, we will take the responsibility to remind you and your Caregiver critical safety tasks, but if you don't utilize home care services it's imperative to do it yourself.
Here are 6 home safety tips to make seniors in Westchester, Nassau, and Fairfield Counties safer at home:
1) CHECK EXPIRED FOOD DATES IN THE PANTRY & REFRIGERATOR
This helps prevent eating spoiled foods. While mold in an aged french blue cheese may be a desirable characteristic, many perishable foods consumed past their prime may cause illness in vulnerable populations like seniors, those with an illness and small children.
According to Barbara Moran, RN, STEPS Patient Services Director, “When checking on the safety of foods for seniors, trust your senses - eyes, taste buds and sense of smell. Spoiled food will look very different in texture, color and may have a bad smell.”
Of the 6 tips we outline, this one has the most complexity. So, we will spend a bit more time on this one than the others, which are more straightforward.
- Use the free USDA app, FoodKeeper, which will help you determine when foods in your pantry should be eaten or how long perishable foods may last in your refrigerator once opened.
- Rule of thumb is that nonperishable items - canned foods, dried foods and grains - can be used past their use-by label dates. In a recent survey led by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, almost 85% of consumers said that they’d thrown out food based on the date on the package. However, many companies test their food products to print a “sell-by” or “use-by” date, which equates to when nonperishable foods taste BEST… not necessarily when the food is unsafe to eat.
- According to the USDA, most canned foods - tuna, soups, and vegetables - can be stored for 2-5 years, and foods high in acid - canned juices, tomatoes, pickles - can be stored for 12-18 months.
- Watch out for dents and bulges at the top or bottom of a can, which means it may be tainted by toxic bacteria that can make you sick and you need to throw it out.
- Perishable items like meat, dairy, and eggs , even when stored at a proper temperature in the refrigerator - no higher than 40° F - have shorter shelf lives.
- If refrigerated or cooked foods have been sitting out at after a party or a meal, have no doubt and throw it out after 2 hours at room temperature or half that time in high heat (picture Grandma’s deviled eggs outside at an August picnic).
OTHER FALL HOME SAFETY CHECKLIST TIPS
On the first Sunday in November, clocks here in Westchester, Nassau, and Fairfield Counties should set back one hour at 2:00 am local daylight time, which becomes 1:00 am local standard time. This is a great reminder each year to follow these tips to keep your loved ones safe at home for the upcoming season.
2) CHANGE BATTERIES IN SMOKE DETECTORS AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
Each fall when the clock turns back by an hour for daylight savings time, remember to change your batteries on your home smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This tip may be the most important, because the detectors can prevent a very dangerous situation, especially for those seniors home alone, who may not be able to get out of the house quickly. If you do have an emergency situation like this, you should call 9-1-1, the fire department, and/or the gas company immediately.
3) CHANGE ON TIMERS CONNECTED TO LAMPS AND OUTSIDE LIGHTS
Now is a good time to suggest "smart home" products. These products can be set to automatically turn on/off according to the amount of day light. That way you take advantage of the safety that timed lights provide, while not having to micro manage them on an ongoing basis. If you are interested in learning more about smart home technologies, you can visit the Smarthome Superstore website where you can find plenty of ideas. And check back with us in a few weeks. We are working on a comprehensive smart home guide.
4) CHANGE THE FLASHLIGHT BATTERIES IN THE HOME AND CAR
It is important to keep a number of flashlights in the home, which can be accessed easily in the case of a power outage. If you have one in the main bedroom, kitchen, and garage you can store them away discreetly while being able to access them easily. You should also keep a flashlight in your glove compartment or trunk for emergencies. It is also a good idea to store the flash light in your car with extra batteries (i.e. keep both in a zip lock bag or other container), because this would be the one you most likely forget.
5) CHECK ALL MEDICATIONS, VITAMINS, AND SUPPLEMENTS FOR EXPIRATION DATES
Throw out all over the counter and prescribed medicines with an expiration date that has passed. Check to make sure the medicine can be thrown away in a regular garbage pickup or flushed. If not, check with your pharmacy on how to dispose of it properly.
6) UPDATE MEDICATION LIST AND EMERGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION
It is essential to have an up-to-date and accurate list of your loved one’s medications they are taking. It only takes a few moments to do and may help health care workers treat someone in the event of an emergency. For instance, STEPS gives each of its clients a binder that includes the Emergency Contact info, Medication List, Plan of Care, etc, which they often take to Doctors appointments or use in emergency situations at home.
Bonus Fall Tip -- rake your leaves
You should rake your leaves, or have someone else do it for you...especially here in New York and Connecticut. Make sure they are left in piles to be picked up, and away from areas in which you would walk. The changing leaves may be beautiful, but they can cause a few hazards. First, they can obscure obstacles that can cause you to fall, such as steps, small objects, change in the level of the ground, wholes in the ground, etc. Second, leaves can become very slippery after it rains.
It may be time to consider engaging in a home care agency, who can provide you with a Caregiver to insure safety and peace of mind. STEPS Home Care provides free RN assessments of which a large part is dedicated to a home safety assessment. Give STEPS Home Care a call @ (855) 548-1797 if you live in Fairfield County, CT, Manhattan, or Westchester and Nassau Counties, NY, and would like to meet with one of our RNs. You can learn more about us by reading our Client Reviews. If you would like a more comprehensive home safety assessment, you can also call us and one of our Care Coordinators will find the right partner with which to connect you.