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Five Simple Steps to Create a
Safer Environment for Seniors
Electricity is such a common part of our
everyday lives. Many wake up each morning to the sound
of an alarm clock and then proceed to turn on lights
around the house before using a whole host of other
electrical appliances throughout the day. It’s our norm.
Yet in spite of the safety, comfort and entertainment
electricity provides, electrical accidents are a leading
cause of home fires every year.
According to the National Fire
Protection Association (NFPA), adults over 65 have the
highest risk of death from fire, and the risk only
increases with age. For those 75 and over, the risk is
2.8 times higher than the general population. What’s
more, many older adults have remained in the same home
for an extended period of time, and electrical fires are
more common in older homes with aging electrical
In honor of National Electrical Safety
Month in May and on behalf of the Electrical Safety
Foundation International (ESFI), I encourage caregivers
to familiarize themselves with some basic tips to help
maximize the safety of the seniors in their care while
minimizing the risks associated with electricity.
1. Verify that the home’s electrical
system is in compliance with the most up to date
electrical codes. Contact a licensed electrician to
conduct a quick home electrical safety inspection. The
electrician should determine the following:
• Circuit breaker panel board is
properly labeled. When the power goes out in a specific
section of the home, labels serve as a quick way to know
which breaker to flip to restore power.
• Circuit breaker has a detection
system designed to prevent fires. This is commonly known
as an arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) and can
detect a circuit breakdown and disconnect the power
before a fire erupts.
• Wall outlets should also include
detection devices such as a ground fault circuit
interrupter (GFCI), which can detect an imbalance or
leakage of electrical currents that can cause lethal
• Let the electrician know if you’re
noticing any of the following: frequently blown fuses
or tripped circuit breakers; a tingling feeling or
slight shock when you touch an appliance; outlets and/or
switches that are warm or make crackling, sizzling or
buzzing noises; or flickering or dimming lights.
2. Make sure the home is properly lit.
Install night lights near stairways, walkways and other
areas to ensure they are illuminated to avoid tripping
hazards. Lamps should be easily accessible in seating
areas and in bedrooms and touch-lamps are especially
useful to seniors. Make sure light bulbs are the
appropriate wattages for night lights and lamps, and
consider using fluorescent bulbs as they consume less