Safety tips for seniors

Before long, snow will fall here in Dutchess County and may make travel difficult, especially for seniors. Before that happens, check up on the absolute safety basics that no home should be without, especially as more seniors stay home during the winter:

• Smoke/carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. These can be purchased together or as separate units. An older unit may no longer get the job done. Even a hardwired detector loses effectiveness over time.

New York State law now requires all new or replacement smoke alarms be powered by a 10-year, sealed, non-removable battery or be hardwired to the home.

Rebuilding Together Dutchess County (RTDC) offers a Home Safety and Fire Prevention program that includes free installation of smoke and CO detectors for eligible homeowners. The program also includes other items as needed: fire extinguishers, reflective house numbers, fire preparedness education, and more. Contact RTDC at or 845-454-7310 for eligibility information.

• A fire extinguisher. Adults over age 65 suffer twice as many fire deaths as the general population, and people over 85 are four times as likely to die in a fire, with the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimating that 83% of deaths resulting from sleepwear fires involve people over 65. Modern fire extinguishers are designed to be easily operated, and some are specific to rooms like kitchens, where most home fires originate.

It’s important to become familiar with proper extinguisher use before there’s a fire, lest having one around lead to a false sense of security, improper extinguisher use, or delays in reporting a fire. Most extinguishers contain between 30 and 60 seconds of firefighting material, according to the New York State Office of General Services.

• A first-aid kit that goes above and beyond. For seniors, a typical off-the-shelf first-aid kit may not be sufficient, due to typically more delicate skin and brittle bones. To augment your first-aid kit, look to add items specific to the added risks of life as a senior: ice packs to help reduce swelling; Ace-type and nonstick gauze bandages to support injured limbs; appropriate over-the-counter pain relievers for help with bruising.

The file of life

The Office for the Aging has a limited number of “File of Life” packets available. The File of Life is designed to help first responders quickly obtain correct medical and contact information during emergencies, when you may be unable to communicate.

The File of Life includes a refrigerator magnet that holds a card on which vital information can be recorded. When recording this information, use a pencil so that it’s easy to update medical conditions and medications as needed.

Contact OFA if you or a Dutchess County senior you know needs a File of Life. While we cannot mail the File of Life, they can be picked up at OFA offices in Poughkeepsie. We can also arrange for a File of Life to be available for you to pick up at an OFA Senior Friendship Center near you.

Golden Living is prepared by Dutchess County OFA Director Todd N. Tancredi, who can be reached at 845-486-2555, or via the OFA website at

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