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Lifestyle ... Safety - Security

How safe is your home?

fResources: Elizabeth A. Browning Helen K. Pereira, PT, DPT, MPH, GCS, www.homesafetycouncil.org

Our home is our safety net and our comfort zone. Yet how safe are we in our own homes? National home injury statistics show that falls in the home are a serious public health problem, with nearly 5.1 million Americans injured by falls in and around the home each year. With a little planning and modifications, your home can easily be adapted for safety, keeping you safe.

1. Get Rid of Throw Rugs and Keep Flooring Safe.

  • Floors and stairways should be as slip-free as possible. Throw rugs are a big factor in falls. If you use a cane or walker the tips can easily get stuck on the edge of your rug, causing you to trip, lose your balance and fall.
  • Basic low nap carpet, or hardwood and linoleum floors are best
  • Place non-skid mats on shower floors, and consider removing thresholds in doorways to minimize the risk of stumbling.
  • If using a wheelchair, keep in mind that smooth surfaces are easier for maneuverability.

2. Make an Easy Entrance or Exit!

  • Remove unnecessary clutter in walk areas.
  • If using a wheelchair, furniture pieces should be placed at least five and a half feet apart from each other. Remove any pieces of furniture that aren’t necessary.
  • Arrange your furniture in a way that will easily accommodate a safe pathway through your home.
  • Have the things you use the most or need, easily accessible to your chair, to eliminate reaching or having to get up to find the remote.
  • Try to find chairs with longer armrests, and higher seats, as these two things make it easier to rise from a sitting position.
  • Make sure you have a clear and safe exit from your home in case of an emergency.

3. Simplify Stairs!

  • To make it easier in your home, install handrails on both sides of the staircase to help with climbing, and assisting with the trek back down. If necessary, install a ramp exiting from your house to eliminate the outside steps. Ramps should be 30-40 inches wide with no more than a 1” rise per foot.
  • Place non skid tape strips, or non skid reflective strips on stair risers to help prevent any sliding or falling on the stair case.
  • If inside, and your stairs are carpeted, make sure carpeting is not loose, or too high of a nap. If so, consider replacing with a non skid flooring material such as linoleum with non skid strips.
  • Ensure that lighting is sufficient in staircases, or install lighting along the steps themselves to help your loved one find each step.
  • Consider the safety of a staircase, and in extreme situations, be open to the idea of moving to a single story home.

4. Install and Double Check Safety Equipment!

  • Proper safety equipment, such as smoke alarms, should be installed on every level, and must be checked regularly.
  • A fire extinguisher should be readily accessible in your kitchen, garage, and on each floor of your home.
  • Purchase a carbon monoxide detector at your local hardware store, and if needed, contact your local fire department for installation tips.
  • Make sure extensions cords from lamps, fans, stereos etc. are not crossing a walkway, or sticking out from behind the couch. All cords should be tucked away. This is a rule for the kitchen also. Many small appliances have cords that dangle off the counter top. Tuck these away also, to prevent a fall. Use plastic zip ties to keep the cords neat and tidy, and install GFI (ground fault interrupted) electrical outlets in bathrooms and kitchens, or near any water sources.
  • Don’t forget safety equipment outside too! Install outdoor lighting at entrance ways and up walkways to your house.

6. Slippery When Wet!

  • Have a grab bar installed in the shower or tub area by a professional
  • Use a shower chair in the bath to save energy, and most importantly, to prevent slipping.
  • Consider using a long handled sponge for easier reaching to the feet and lower legs.
  • A raised toilet seat with handles can make a standard toilet much more accessible and safe.
  • Since many falls happen in the bathroom, have a phone close by, or consider purchasing a cell phone, which your loved one can use from room to room. Another option is an emergency response system that is worn around the neck and can be pressed when help is needed.

7. Save a Little Kitchen Magic!

  • Use a “reacher” or a safe step stool to get to items on top shelves. NEVER climb on a chair to reach that mixing bowl!
  • Create a workspace where you can be seated while preparing a meal to conserve energy.
  • Use slide out shelves or a lazy Susan in your kitchen to get to groceries easier. Don’t store things on higher shelves, keep everything where it’s easiest for you to reach.
  • Handles and levers are easier for older adults to use than knobs, while handles may need to be lowered for someone who is using a wheelchair.
  • Replace burned out light bulbs in ceiling fixtures to illuminate work areas. Install under the counter lighting, or lighting inside of cabinets to make it easier to search for that can of vegetables.

8. Goodnight and Safe Dreams!

  • Install bed rails to make getting in and out of bed easier, or if necessary, purchase a hospital bed.
  • Make sure the corners of your bedspread or sheets don’t drag on the floor, causing you to get your walker tips or your feet tangled.
  • Lower the shelves in your closet to make it easier to get to clothing, or store things on eye level or lower. 

Our home is our castle, and should be even as we age. If necessary, get a friend or call senior care professionals like us to walk inside and outside of your home with you today to complete a home safety check.


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