My elderly mother made a rather silly mistake a few weeks ago. She had awakened in the middle of the night, and reached for her water bottle that she kept by her bedside. It wasn’t until after drinking two or three huge gulps that she realized that she wasn’t drinking water, but had grabbed a container of hydrogen peroxide instead.
While many of us are “poison aware” when our infants and kids are concerned, we often tend to forget that our senior parents may need some assistance in keeping them safe from accidentally ingesting poisons. For those of us with aging parents, “senior proofing” a home is an important part of keeping our parents safe.
Do a poison inventory
If you haven’t done it yet, checking out your parent’s stash of household chemicals and poisons should be your first step. I know a lot of seniors ~ and not just my parents ~ who have old, old household poisons sitting under the kitchen sink, in the laundry room, or out in the garage somewhere. In many cases, the container has eroded or rotted out in the bottom, and has spilled hazardous material onto a shelf.
If your parents have old rat poison, old Drano, old paint thinners, hair dye, leaky herbicides and other toxic materials sitting around, it’s time to gather up that stuff and bring it down to the nearest hazardous waste collection site. Yep, they may protest that it’s a “waste” of perfectly good chemicals, but this stuff really needs to go away quickly.
Remove the usable poisons from their house
For the household chemicals that are left, take a critical eye at the ones that you parents may really expect to use. If you think there’s a possibility that they may actually need that kerosene, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, and other poisons, bring the stuff home to your place and store it for them. This keeps the chemicals out of their reach, but is easy enough to access in case it is needed.
Keeping drinking water separate from the medical supplies
Some of these accidental poisonings happen because our parents reach for the wrong thing at night. A simple trick is to glue coils of yarn around the medical containers that could be mistaken for a glass of water or water bottle. This way, if they reach for the item by mistake in the dark, they know that they’ve grabbed something potentially hazardous instead of their water bottle.
Order Mr. Yuk stickers from Poison Control
Call the poison control center in your community and ask for several sheets of Mr. Yuk stickers for your parents. While your parents should know what is poison and what isn’t, a bright green Mr. Yuk sticker should jolt their memory in case they grab for the wrong thing accidentally. Don’t forget to post the Poison Control number by their phone in case of an emergency.
Accidents do happen and when it comes to our senior parents, we really should exercise the same degree of precaution as we did with our toddlers. The poison control hotline is 1-800-222-1222 with the web site of the National Capital Poison Center located at www.poison.org.