Most Common Accidents and How to Prevent Them

January 22, 2015

Common Senior Accidents

Though we like to think of our homes as sanctuaries of comfort and safety, accidents can still happen at any time, especially for seniors and disabled individuals living at home. Fortunately by learning about the most common accidents and how to prevent them, you can help to minimize the risks and potential for injuries or even death.

The following are some of the most common accidents that seniors and disabled adults are likely to have at home. Take the time to assess their living situations and remedy any potential threats that you can. It’s also important to talk with your loved ones and in-home care provider or care agency to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to avoiding accidents. There’s no way to completely eliminate the potential for accidents, but taking these steps can help reduce the risks.


According to the CDC, one of every three seniors over the age of 65 falls each year, but less than half of them talk to their healthcare provider about it. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries, which can include lacerations, head trauma, hip fractures and other serious and lasting health issues.

To help prevent falls, seniors should take the following steps:

  • Exercise regularly to increase leg strength and improve balance.
  • Ask your healthcare provider to review your medications and identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness, drowsiness or impaired motor skills.
  • Have your vision checked regularly and update prescription eyeglasses to improve eyesight.
  • Reduce tripping and slipping hazards around the house by adding grab bars, railings, non-slip pads and carpets, and improve the lighting in the home.

Visit the National Directory of Home Modification and Repair Resources for more information on resources in your area that might assist with fall prevention. 

Scalds and Burns

Scalds from hot liquid or steam account for one of the leading causes of burn-related hospitalizations in the U.S. Elderly adults are at the highest risk of fatalities and injuries due to scalds and burns – four to five times greater than the population as a whole. The risk of scalds and burns increases if there are preexisting conditions, such as poor eye-sight, limited mobility, and decreased strength as well.

To minimize the risk of burns and scalds, take the following precautions:

  • Test the temperature of the water with a thermometer before taking a bath to ensure it does not exceed 100˚ F or 39˚ C. Consider using a spout cover to monitor temperature.
  • Keep pot handles turned back, away from the stove edge and keep electrical cords neatly stored out of the way.
  • Be careful when removing lids from hot foods and kettles to avoid escaping steam.
  • Avoid carrying hot foods and liquids over long distance through the house by hand and use a tray if they must be moved.
  • Turn your water heater down. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends keeping it at 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalds.  

Fire Accidents

Fire accidents are a concern for everyone, but the risks dramatically increase for seniors and disabled adults. The risk of fire death and injury increases when individuals are unable to respond quickly to an emergency, medications slow response time, or no one is available to help in the event of a fire.

To help minimize the risk of fires and fire injury or death, take the following precautions:

  • Never leave food that is cooking unattended, heat cooking oils gradually, and never wear loose clothing when cooking.
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher close at hand in multiple locations throughout the house.
  • Do not use space heaters near wet areas or in bathrooms, and never place anything on top of or near the heaters. Follow the manufacturers instructions, and only purchase Underwriter’s Laboratory approved heaters.
  • Do not leave smoking materials unattended, empty all ashtrays into the toilet or metal container before bed, and never smoke in bed.
  • Have electrical wiring inspected regularly, especially in older homes.
  • Frequently test smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries regularly.

The home can present a variety of risks to seniors and disabled adults, but by taking the proper precautions and being proactive, you can help minimize the risks of injury and death.

What precautions have you taken to make the home safer for your loved ones?

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