Fire Protection for Seniors and Family Caregivers

Older adults are at a greater risk of being injured in a fire. They may be less able to take the necessary quick action in a fire emergency. They may be taking medications that affect their ability to make decisions. Memory loss may be a factor. And seniors are more likely to be alone when accidents happen.

Whether a senior lives in a house, apartment or senior living community, these five steps can help lower the risk of fire:


Practice Cooking Safety. Most kitchen fires occur when food is left unattended on the stove. If you leave the kitchen while cooking, bring a spoon or pot holder along to remind you to return to the kitchen. Avoid wearing loose sleeves that could come in contact with a burner.


Install Smoke Alarms. Be sure you have a working smoke alarm on every level of the home, outside sleeping areas and inside bedrooms. Replace the battery annually—perhaps while resetting clocks for Daylight Savings Time. And test all alarms once a month.


Practice Space Heater Safety. Buy only Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) approved heaters. Don't place electric space heaters in the bathroom or around other wet areas. Keep bedding and other combustibles away from space heaters, and don't dry or store objects on top of them.


Create a Home Escape Plan. Know at least two exits from every room. If you use a walker, wheelchair or other mobility aid, widened doorways and exit ramps add an extra margin of safety. And remember: in case of fire, exiting quickly is more important than trying to save possessions.


If You Smoke, Take Safety Precautions. Not smoking at all is safest, of course. But if you do, don't leave smoking materials unattended. Empty all ashtrays into the toilet or a metal container before going to bed. Never smoke in bed—and if you start to feel sleepy, extinguish smoking materials immediately.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Americans over age 65 are at greatest of dying in a fire—and fires at home are the most common. Take steps now to keep yourself and older loved ones safe.

For more information, visit the website of the U.S. Fire Administration, which includes the Fire Safety for Older Adults campaign. FEMA reminds seniors: "Don’t let your years of memories and your life today go up in flames."

Photos: U.S. Fire Administration

SOURCE: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge. Copyright 2013, IlluminAge.