In the previous article, I
addressed ways to guard personal safety for the elder inside of their
homes. Most elders live independently in the community. In the past an
elder, or anyone, in need could lean on their neighbors and surrounding
community, but with changes in our lifestyles and the mobility of society
this is not often the case. Many have seen changes come to their community
due to aging buildings and relocation and fragmentation of families.
Because of these changes, some elders find themselves living in areas that
are no longer considered safe.
Whether you live in a gated community or in one of the older
neighborhoods, safety should be a concern. Although no one is guaranteed
safety, in this article, I have attempted to address what is termed
environmental safety; ways to deter a criminal from gaining access to your
home or your possessions.
In the last issue, we talked about safety in the home. Keeping your elder
safe in their own home should be one of your highest priorities. In this
issue, we will explore home security. As crime increases in all areas, it
is an important issue that should be carefully considered. Here are some
general security tips that are
Use a formal Neighborhood Watch.
This valuable citizen-centered group is one of the most effective ways to
reduce crime. Neighbors looking after neighbors. Most of the time, the
group of neighbors meets monthly with each other and members of the police
department. They are given training and are taught about what types of
behavior is suspicious. Neighbors are encouraged to watch each others
homes when they travel, picking up their mail and checking the home. This
not only provides the elder with a safer neighborhood, it also involves
the elder in other people lives and homes.
If there is not a formal organized neighborhood watch, and your elder is
not able to start one, help your elder develop an informal one. Find a
neighbor or two that can watch out for each other. Perhaps telephone each
other every morning or at specified time of the day. Now, of course, the
adult child can call each day. But the neighbor is near, and will offer
the elder some additional outside interaction if they are homebound.
Many people are not aware this service, but most sheriff’s/police
departments offer a Residential Safety Survey for free. By calling the
Community Affairs division, you can make an appointment to have your home
inspected by a police officer. The officer will come to the home and
conduct a full security audit. The audit will focus on many aspects of the
elders’ home and when competed will provide a concise outline that, if
followed will reduce the opportunity for a crime to occur in your elders
CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design)
This term has become very popular when planning new homes. It simply
is a way to make the outside are of your home safer by taking a closer
look at the trees, shrubs and outside lighting around your elders home.
Start by looking at the lot from a distant point. Crime prevention
professionals use the “Three D Approach.” This approach is based on the
three functions of human space:
1. Looking at a spaces
2. Looking at needed definitions that prescribe the desired and
3. Is the space designed to support and control the desired behavior.
Using this tool, you can
evaluate the property your elder is living on and determine if they are
living in a safe area.
The Three Lines of Defense
By breaking down the property into three simple categories, you will be
able to make your elders home a safer place to live. The three lines of
defense are: perimeter, exterior and interior.
Start by looking at the perimeter of the property. Make notes about the
lighting on the streets or lack thereof. Make notes about the traffic
patterns, ask neighbors about their safety concerns. Examine sidewalks and
steps approaching the elders home. Examine the trees to see if you have
any low hanging limbs that may block any security lights. Take the time to
talk to the neighbors they can be very helpful in giving you accurate
information. Consider anything that may pose a safety concern and make
As you approach the house, take a closer look at the windows and doors.
Windows should not have any shrubs or trees blocking the view. A thief can
hide in the bushes and surprise any one approaching the front door.
Overgrown shrubs can allow a thief to look into windows or hide near the
house without being seen.
Door and window locks should also be reviewed. Each door should be
examined carefully. Take care that each lock works correctly and is
secure. Also each window on the first floor should have its own lock. If
there is a second story, look and see if there are any trees that would
allow a person to gain entry into the house by climbing in the window. If
so, secure the window or remove the branch.
This is the one that will take the most time. After looking at all the
doors and windows, lights are one of most basic areas to consider. The use
of timers when the elder is out of the home is a good idea as the home
will be well lit when they return. If the elder is going to be away, the
timers give the appearance that someone is still in the home.
Sometimes in working with
Caregivers of elders, the adult children will ask me how to make their
parents move into a safer area or facility. It is especially difficult
if the elder does indeed live in a neighborhood that has become more
urban and dangerous. I have always felt that that it should be the
elders ultimate decision on when it is a good time to move.
Moving is difficult and stressful, even under the best circumstances,
and a move that is forced or coerced is even more painful. If the elder
is mentally competent to make their own decisions, then the best service
the family can offer, is to assist the elder in living as safely as
possible, wherever they want to live. I have found that if a Caregiver
takes this stance, when the time is right, the elder feels much safer
taking steps towards a move.
The interior survey will
take the most time. Start with lighting. Timers foil thieves by leading
them to think someone is home when a person is away. Timers can help
elders from home at night, too; they return to a well lit home.
You will want to be sure that all of the windows close and lock properly.
If there are sliding glass doors, there are two types of locks that all of
these doors should have. The first is what is called a Charley bar; the
bar that lays across the bottom of the stationary door. In addition, you
should add a screw along the track on top of the door. The screw will
prevent the sliding door from being lifted out of the frame.
Check all of the locks to be sure they are properly installed and strong.
You will want to install dead bolts on doors also. If your elder is moving
into a new apartment or home, the locks should be changed to prevent any
unauthorized entry. If it possible, all locks should be at least 36 inches
from any glass pane. This will prevent someone from breaking a glass pane
and reaching in to open the lock. Additionally, do not keep the keys to
the doors near the glass pane. Ask yourself if you think a person could
break the window and reach the keys.
Most local police/sheriff’s agencies offer the Operation ID program. By
engraving your driver license number on high ticket items such as TV’s,
VCR’s, and Computer, you significantly increase your odds of having your
property returned if it is stolen. Police agencies are able to track
recovered items and return them to their owner. Thieves are aware of the
Operation ID program and often leave these items in the home. Check with
your local Police or Sheriff’s Department and ask them for more details.
You will want to photograph your jewelry and other valuables against a
solid black background and store the photographs in your safety deposit
box or someplace other than your house. This will aide in recovery after a
theft, and will be necessary if you have insurance.
Check to be sure all smoke detectors are in good working order. You will
want to mark ahead in your calendar to check the batteries. Place a smoke
detector in each room of the house and be sure your elder can hear the
alarm and knows what it means. You may want to purchase a carbon monoxide
detector for the home.
Check all extension cords to be sure that they are in good shape. Never
run an extension cord under a carpet The cord could become frayed and
catch on fire. Do not overload any extension cords as it may overheat and
cause a fire.
Safety and security should never be compromised. Taking a few moments to
look over your elders home will go a long way in keeping them safe.
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