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Safety Tips for Seniors Living Alone

As a senior living alone, you’re probably more safety conscious than ever. Four everyday locations with built-in pitfalls are the kitchen, the bathroom, your car (while driving), and your community. The good news is that there are many ways to reduce hazards in each location, and we’ll look at the top safety tips for each.

1. Kitchen Safety

Kitchens are equipped with knives, whirring blades, open flames and/or hot surfaces. They’re an accident waiting to happen. It makes sense for seniors living alone to put systems in place to reduce kitchen hazards. A Place for Mom and FEMA offer a number of safety tips:

  • Double check that an appliance is turned off when you’ve finished using it, and always check the oven, burners, and coffeemaker before leaving the house and before bedtime. If it’s difficult to tell when an appliance is on, mark “Off” and “On” positions with brightly colored tape. Leave yourself a note on a bathroom mirror or the front door to remind you to check.
  • Set a kitchen timer when you cook, and never leave food unattended.
  • Avoid loose clothing when you’re cooking, and keep towels, potholders, etc., away from the stovetop.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy and read the instructions beforehand so you know how to operate it before you need to use it.

2. Bathroom Safety

If your bathroom is an obstacle course, the quickest path to safety is to put non-essentials away in drawers and cabinets. AARP helps to fill our list of top bathroom safety tips:

  • Use a nightlight in the bathroom so you don’t have to wander around in the dark.
  • Change the door so that it opens outward. That way, if you need help, the door can’t open into you and injure you.
  • Install a handheld showerhead and a grab bar in the tub or shower. The University of Missouri Extension recommends a vertical rather than a diagonal grab bar.
  • Unplug electrical appliances such as curling irons and makeup mirrors when you finish using them. Again, leave a note on the mirror or the appliance itself so you remember.

3. Driving Safety

If you’re a senior living alone, you may still be driving. According to HelpGuide.org, a non-profit resource for seniors and caregivers, “Aging does not automatically equal total loss of driving ability.” Top safe-drive tips include

  • Be careful when entering your car, whether you’re at home or out in the community. Check all around the car and in the back seat for possible intruders or safety hazards before you get in, and lock the doors immediately after you enter the car.
  • Don’t drive in situations that make you uncomfortable — at night, on the highway, in the rain or snow, etc.
  • Don’t drive when you’re tired, woozy from medication, or upset.
  • Make sure your windshield, mirrors, and windows are clean.
  • Drive defensively because it doesn’t matter how careful you are if a “road demon” crosses your path. Remember the old adage from driver’s education, “Always leave yourself an out.”

4. Around-Town Safety

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, and it’s a great day to get out, run some errands and walk around town. Everyone needs to take extra precautions in public these days — not just seniors living alone. The City of Detroit helps you stack the safety odds in your favor:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings when you’re out in public.
  • Never leave your purse unattended, in a shopping cart, or draped over your chair in a restaurant. Hold it close to your body, and keep your wallet in an inside pocket of your coat or jacket, if possible, with a rubber band wrapped around it. The rubber band makes it more difficult for a thief to remove.
  • Divide your cash, and carry only a small amount in your wallet.
  • Carry only one credit or debit card with you when you go out.

These common-sense safety tips apply to everyone, not just seniors living alone. All our lives, we hear the phrase, “An ounce of prevention . . .” This phrase really hits home in the seconds after a mishap when we’re staring down that “pound of cure” and wish we could turn back the clock. Instead, investing a little time in prevention can help avoid the pound of cure.

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