Living safely at home this winter

Cosy and comforting, the winter months are the perfect opportunity to enjoy rugging up in the comfort of your own home. Who doesn’t love a winter evening in front of the heater, with the TV on and a nice cuppa or two (or even something stronger)?

Yet cooler conditions do bring their own set of challenges, especially for older Australians living at home. With this in mind, the Absolute Care & Health team has compiled our top seven tips for staying safe at home this winter:

  1. Rug up and insulate

First and foremost, keep warm. Wearing many thin layers of clothing, preferably in wool, fleece or cotton, provides greater insulation than a single thick layer and will help guard against discomfort and also more serious health issues such as hypothermia.

It’s not only your body that requires good insulation, but your home too. Before winter really sets in, check all windows to ensure there are no cracks and that all insulation is sound. This will help to keep the heat in during winter months and has the added bonus of a significant saving on power bills.

  1. Guard against falls

Older Australians frequently fall in their own home. In fact falls at home are the most common reason older people are hospitalised and/or move into aged care accommodation.

Wet winter weather escalates the risk of falls. Consider:

  • Installing handrails alongside outdoor steps
  • Repairing uneven garden paths
  • Installing slip guards or applying non-slip paint
  • Keeping outside paths clear of moss and fallen leaves.

Inside the home, it’s also worth remembering:

  • Winter months mean reduced daylight. Turn the lights on so you can see where you’re going inside and use night lights to aide getting around the home safely after dark.
  • Wear safe, comfortable shoes (no thongs or floppy slippers)
  • In wet areas such as the shower and bathroom, use non-slip mats.
  • Always remove bath mats from the floor once you have finished with them. Bath mats left on the floor in bathrooms increase your risk of falling
  • Review carpet and floor rugs. Frayed or torn carpet as well as floor rugs are a trip hazard and should be repaired or removed.
  1. Check the home’s heating

Ensure there are no obvious signs of heater decay. In gas heaters, these can include unusual smells, yellow flames, noisy or inoperable fans or difficulty lighting the heater. Consider having a professional inspect your heater for faults or underlying hazards – this is an absolute must if any signs of disrepair are present. Good ventilation is also essential when using gas heaters. Toxic carbon monoxide has no odour and can result in severe poising and even death.

Avoid using electric bar heaters due to the risk of burns. Similarly, remember that blankets and clothing should be kept well away from heaters. Never drape blankets or clothing directly over a heater – this is a common cause of serious and preventable fire in the home.

  1. Don’t overload power points

Particularly in older homes where fewer power points are available, it can be tempting to plug many different appliances into a single power point, but this is not advisable. Keep it simple and connect one appliance per plug. This reduces the load on the power point and minimises the risk of sparking or fire.

  1. Take care using heat packs or hot water bottles

Never use more than one personal heating device at a time. Regularly replace your heat pack according to the life span on the label. Your heat pack may appear undamaged on the outside but this does not account for internal decay.

Always keep a layer, such as a pillow cover or case, between your skin and your heat pack to avoid an accidental burn.

Use heat packs instead of hot water bottles however if you must use a hot water bottle, never fill it with boiling water. Likewise, don’t reheat your heat pack until it has sufficiently cooled.

  1. Use electric blankets with care

The ACCC estimates 400 000 electrical blankets have been deemed unsafe since 2010. Visit Recalls Australia to confirm the safety of your electric blanket. Check for any signs of wear and tear. If possible, only use your electric blanket to warm your bed before you sleep – don’t leave it on all night. A faulty electric blanket can cause electric shock, overheating or fire.

  1. Be prepared

Make sure all the home’s smoke detectors are switched on and functioning optimally, ideally with new batteries in place. Create a fire escape plan that includes two separate routes out of every room in the house. Make your own or use the CFA’s free template. Practice this plan and ensure every member of the household has a copy in case of emergency.

If you’re concerned about how your parent or older relative will manage at home during winter, please contact the friendly team at Absolute Care & Health. Our tailored in-home services make living at home safely a reality, for longer.