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Stay Safe at home – giving advice that’s savvy

As a Home-Watch Co-ordinator for more than eight years, I am often asked what’s the best advice on how elderly relatives can stay safe without alarming them. It’s important that you don’t sound patronising or that you try to “teach grandma to suck eggs,” as the saying goes.

It is alarming how many elderly and vulnerable people will just go out after dark to investigate an unusual noise or look for the cat! And why not, one could say, but it is a sad indictment of our times that this is now not necessarily a good idea.

There is a surfeit of excellent support and advice out there, but where do we pitch in without being alarmist? Being elderly doesn’t mean “feeble”. So, how do we keep our relatives safe without sounding patronising or obvious.

Clever advice needs to be savvy.

With the darker evening and mornings upon us at the end of this month, closing one’s curtains and bolting the door can make the winter months seem interminably long and isolating.chain 1721046 1280

But there are a few simple measures we can put in place so that our relatives stay safe  – and give us peace of mind.

The police and your local Neighbourhood Watch Team issue sticky labels that can placed on front doors and windows to stop cold callers. These are initially a good deterrent. If this is on your door any cold caller should, by law, leave the premises. If they do not leave and you feel threatened or at risk – dial 999 immediately.

Stay safe; be cautious


Most responsible charity collectors will call by day, so if you are not expecting anyone, stay safe; be cautious.

  • Make sure there is a chain on the front door and back door if necessary. Many distraction burglaries happen during the day. Someone is kept talking at the front door while someone is taking advantage of an open back door. Get into the habit of keeping both doors secure.
  • Have a key safe next to the door, make sure the number is only given out to those that need to know. This will allow access to anyone in in an emergency. Updating it is easy but make sure that the updated number is known to those that matter.
  • Install an outside security light, this not only acts as a deterrent but also can prevent falls.
  • Remove or cut back any foliage around the front door and windows
  • Have good heavy curtains, not only will this prevent draughts it will mean that no one can be seen or watched

Ask for ID!flowers 422142 1280

We all know how plausible bogus callers can be, as they try to trick their way into people’s homes.

  • You can’t be there 24/7. You are not always going to stop your relative from opening the door. If they must, then instil in them to always ask for ID and do not let anyone in until they have shown their ID. This they can do without undoing the chain. Any genuine trader will automatically provide their ID. Few traders will visit after dark and without appointment. Showing ID is now normal practice so assure your relatives that they are not being a nuisance or rude by asking.
  • Keep a phone within easy reach. Have your number on speed dial. Have an alert ‘coded phrase‘ with your relative, they can phone you and alert you to an unwelcome visitor without suspicion. For instance; “Just letting you know Daisy is coming to tea tomorrow!” On hearing that, you can go to your relative’s house and deal with the situation, or alert someone else.
  •  If your relatives feel threatened, empower them to dial 999. The police are there to do a job.

A cautionary tale

Sadly, in my experience, sometimes a bad experience will be the only way someone will become cautious and we would like to avoid that at any cost. When I worked for Social Services, on my case load was a widowed lady in her late eighties, who had been fiercely independent and mobile.

She was a friendly, trusting lady until one evening someone purporting to be from the gas supplier knocked on her door. He said he was calling about a possible gas leak next door; so naturally she allowed them in. Distracting her, his accomplice gained access via an unlocked back door. He stole her cash, her bank details and other personal information.

They also stole treasured items belonging to her late husband. She was unaware of this until two days later when she went to her bag to find her purse missing. Her contactless card had been used on numerous occasions and her card had been used for onine purchases. The shock of this had a massive impact on her health. She became a frightened, reclusive, vulnerable lady. She sadly said to me: “He looked such a nice man.”

Simple things – Keep them safe.

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