Did you know that 33% of seniors experience a fall annually? You play an important role in helping to keep your clients safe at home and when out in the community. This issue will address client safety concerns you can help identify and take action on, as well as tips to consider for you to stay safe throughout your shift as a valued CAREGiverSM.
Seniors experience changes in their sensory, physical and mental abilities as they age. These changes can occur gradually or may appear very suddenly, especially if associated with an acute illness or hospitalization. Although a client may have managed very well in his own home, these changes can turn everyday tasks into hazards. You should make sure to consider the safety of a client’s home or facility based on his current abilities. What new challenges does he face? Why could these challenges cause problems? As a CAREGiver, you can recognize possible situations and adapt the environment to help prevent injury and keep the client safe.
Changes in a client’s ability to hear, see, smell, taste and feel can be tied to natural aging, disabling conditions or some injuries. If a client’s hearing or vision is decreasing, he may be at risk of:
- Not hearing the doorbell, phone, smoke alarms or if an intruder is in the home
- Not hearing the doctor when medication dosage is discussed
- Falling or tripping on loose rugs, items on the floor or even the edge of steps
- Medication mismanagement if dosage instructions can’t be read or pill colors are not seen.
If a senior’s sense of smell, taste or touch are comprised, he may begin to lose his appetite and/or eat food that’s spoiled or drink something that isn’t considered a beverage. The loss of these senses could also cause physical harm, such as:
- Not smelling a gas leak or something that’s burning
- Getting scalded in the bath or shower
- Failing to notice a cut or scrape that could lead to the risk for infection, a potential hazard for those with diabetes.
Physical abilities also change with age—people aren’t as strong or flexible as they used to be. And, acute conditions or accidents like a stroke or a broken hip may suddenly change a client’s physical ability to do something. When with your client, be on the lookout for the following changes:
- Unsteady gait with or without a cane or walker
- Inability or difficulty getting out of a chair or bed
- Inability to carry, lift or reach items he previously could. i.e. shopping bags or a book right next to him
Aging and disease can cause changes in mental abilities in some seniors that could affect memory, judgment, understanding and communication. If a client has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it is important to monitor his ability to process safety decisions like those below because an inability to cast proper judgement may indicate a progression of the disease. Changes in mental abilities may impact the following safety concerns:
- May forget to turn off stove or other appliances, creating a fire risk
- May forget how to use equipment she once could use correctly
- May be unable to explain what she needs
- May have difficulty following instructions
- May wander off
- May become the victim of scams or con artists
- May forget to close or lock doors and windows
As a CAREGiver in someone else’s home, there may be limits to what you can change; however, you should report your safety concerns to the franchise office immediately and work with your supervisor to advocate for changes to create a safe environment for your client.
Not only is it your responsibility to make sure your client is safe, but you must also proactively ensure you’re safe when with a client. While there are many safety considerations, here are five priorities:
- Be aware of weather conditions and surroundings when driving to/from a client’s home. Follow safe driving practices and always carry emergency information for yourself and client in case of an accident.
- Be alert when coming or going to a client’s home. Turn lights on after dark and lock outside doors. Never leave valuables in your vehicle and be cautious when answering the front door.
- Be honest with your supervisor about concerns you may have about pets before working with clients. If a client has a pet, learn how to approach the pet when entering the home.
- Practice proper handwashing and food safety precautions to prevent infections and illness. For example, wash hands before and after touching a client, doing laundry, preparing food and handling trash. Remember to cook food to the right temperature and refrigerate leftovers right away.
- Be friendly, but use discretion when sharing personal information with the client and her family. For example, do not share your phone number or talk about your personal problems or concerns during your shift.
Thank you for your dedication to keeping clients safe and for all you do as a CAREGiver to change the face of aging.
If you’d like to share your suggestions or experiences related to client and personal safety during a shift, , email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.* We welcome additional feedback or suggestions for this newsletter as well!