Fire can be a concern anytime of the year, but during the summer months fire can play a larger role and be of increased concerned for older adults. From BBQ’s to wildfires, the best time to ensure your loved one is up to date on fire safety is before it becomes necessary. This is one area where a little prevention can save a life.
Fire Safety for Seniors
Older adults over the age of sixty-five run a much higher risk of being injured or killed by a fire than people in younger age groups. In fact, those in this age category have a 2.5 times higher chance of dying due to a fire.
Why is that number so large? One reason is that, as people age, their reaction time to accidents in the kitchen or elsewhere can diminish. Decreased ability to see and hear can also mean older adults remain unaware of a situation until there is little time left to react.
This also holds true for older adults who have pre-existing health conditions. Conditions that materialize with age, such as diabetes or dementia, can make an older adult more susceptible to death or injury due to fire. For example, some older adults with diabetes no longer have a full amount of feeling in their extremities, including their fingers. This can lead to burns in the kitchen going unnoticed. Additionally, older adults with early, undetected phases of dementia may accidentally leave a pot on the stove and forget about it, potentially leading to a kitchen fire.
That is why it is important to have a fire safety checklist of home fire safety tips created before an accident occurs.
Fire Safety Tips for Older Adults at Home
While one thinks of the kitchen first when they think of home fire accidents, there are fire risks in several areas of the home. Not only is it important to keep accidents from happening, it’s equally important to know what to do if they occur.
Some quick tips to observe
- Make a plan – Be sure you have planned escape routes for your loved ones. Then practice them. They won’t do any good if older family members can’t remember them during an emergency.
- Use smoke detectors – These detectors should be on every level of the home. They also need to be checked to ensure they work properly.
- Be attentive in the kitchen – When cooking it is easy to become distracted and forget something is on the stove. Always keep a close eye and never leave cooking food unattended.
- Keep your bedroom a smoke free environment – Have a rule to never smoke in bed, and make no exceptions.
Additional Summertime Fire Hazards for Seniors
With summer comes additional fire risks. These can include fireworks, grilling outside, and wildfires. Make sure that your older loved ones keep a good distance from the open flames found on grills as well as live fireworks. If an older person is burned, it can be particularly detrimental to their health. Burns can invite infection and according to the U.S. Fire Administration, older skin heals at a much slower rate than younger skin. It would take an older adult four times longer to heal from a burn that it would a younger person. For this reason, it’s very important to be sure older adults are protected from potentially flammable situations.
When it comes to wildfires, keep a close eye on news reports and have an evacuation plan prepared. This plan should include ensuring that all medicines and insurance papers are easily located and can be removed quickly if the need arises. In addition, there may be certain items that have a great deal of sentimental value to the older adult in your life. Discuss this ahead of time, so those items can be taken with you.
Fire can be quite frightening when it happens, which means it’s very important to plan ahead to prevent it and to have a planned response if something does happen. By paying attention and taking stock of a few fire safety tips for seniors, you can keep the older adult in your life safe this summer and for many seasons to come. Do you have a fire safety plan in place already? If so, we would love to hear about it in the comments below!