Changing Senior Living Needs and Options

It’s inevitable that you or someone you love will move into an independent or assisted living community, rehabilitation or memory care facility. Over 1.3 million people move into nursing homes and 713,000 currently move into residential care communities each year, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. The American Senior Communities advocacy group says that while 76 percent of residents in assisted living communities moved there from their own home, apartment or a family residence, some seniors move after an unexpected hospital stay or rehab—meaning the family may not be adequately prepared for the move.

Whether planned or unplanned, moving to a senior facility is a major lifestyle change—often distressing—for the entire family. It takes the senior time to adjust to their new home and routines. Family makes the transition easier when they help research senior communities, put the house up for sale, and direct the actual move.

While senior living facilities provide excellent care and pleasant home-like environments, the apartment may be lacking one life-saving piece of equipment: a fire extinguisher. Did you know that fire extinguishers are NOT required by law in the residential units of a senior living facility? Hallways and common areas, yes. Some communities do include fire extinguishers in the residents units, and I applaud them for taking this essential initiative.

Let’s Talk About Fire Extinguishers

This story really happened! A senior woman was feeling cold in the middle of January in her new senior apartment and wanted a warm blanket. She decided to heat up a blanket in the microwave. The blanket had metallic threads in it, but she didn’t know that metal can’t be put in a microwave. The microwave caught fire and there was no fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Even if there had been one, she was not trained to use an extinguisher. Fortunately, the fire alarm went off and sprinklers were triggered. There was no loss of life, but there was extensive damage to several units.

Her story is not uncommon. The National Fire and Protection Association reports an estimated yearly average of 1,830 structure fires in senior living communities. Cooking equipment was involved in 83 percent of the fires and the peak time was between 4 and 6 p.m.—mealtime.

That’s why the family must step in to make sure there’s a fire extinguisher mounted in the kitchen near the stove and the microwave. The perfect choice is a small fire extinguisher. It weighs less than three pounds, is easy to use, just as effective, and conveniently fits in small spaces, such as apartments. Operation is simple; it’s perfect for those who aren’t tech-savvy. I like to give these small fire extinguishers as gifts to friends and family, so include a small fire extinguisher as a house-warming gift.

But there’s more to having the right fire extinguisher in the right place for the right situation. Most seniors don’t know HOW to use the extinguisher. Knowing how to correctly use it in an emergency can save lives.

To help the family and their senior learn how to operate an extinguisher, Brothers Fire & Security has developed the online course, “Fire Extinguisher Training for Family with Seniors.” It teaches the entire family—even the kiddos—how to use a fire extinguisher. I encourage you to make this course a family event. What better way to empower your senior loved one, give them confidence in moving into their new home, and give you peace of mind knowing they’ll be prepared if something happens!

A Fire Prevention “State of Mind”

Most seniors will move from one phase of care to another: independent living, rehab after being hospitalized, assisted living, long-term care, sometimes memory care. When you pack the suitcases and boxes for a move, bring along the fire extinguisher, make sure it’s operational, even test it if necessary.

I call it the “Have fire extinguisher, will travel” philosophy, and it should become a mindset. Just like you take special effort to pack your mother’s favorite family photos for display on her bookshelf, pack her fire extinguisher and place it conveniently in her kitchen.

A Final Word on Senior Living Security

Just a quick mention of another issue to consider in senior living. Security needs to be at the top of your list of research questions, including:

  1. What building access equipment does the facility have and how much security can your senior physically and cognitively handle (keys, keypads, doors, codes, etc.)?
  2. What does the company provide for security monitoring services (24/7 coverage inside and outside, security guards, visitor access, data storage)?
  3. Are all the required safety and security inspections up-to-date and coordinated for all fire and security systems and equipment?
  4. Is there a current evacuation plan in place?

A high-quality senior living community is happy to answer these questions and has rock-solid answers, so don’t hesitate to ask. If there’s hesitation or the answers aren’t good enough, cross the facility off your list and move on—literally!

While moving into senior housing is life-changing, challenging and even upsetting, I hope this advice will help the entire family through the process to find the perfect, safe and secure home for your senior loved one.

About Brothers Fire & Security

As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods.