Guide

Home Safety Checklist: Tips on How to Keep Your Aging Loved One Safe at Home

Vickie Ignachuck

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The home environment often needs to adapt as a person ages or becomes less independent. When evaluating long term care options, home care can be considered if the residence supports the type of assistance necessary, and provides a comfortable, safe and relatively low maintenance living environment. Before you make a decision, consider what it would take to make the residence an appropriate place to receive long term care. Engage the care recipient in the discussion and try to get agreement on what changes need to be made. Remember that even small changes can be upsetting – discuss the plan in stages and try to make it less overwhelming.

 

These tips can help your loved one remain safe at home for as long as possible. Some improvements can be made easily; others may require the help of a professional.

 

Fall Prevention

  • Clear hallways and stairways clutter. Make sure that there is a wide, clear pathway from the bed to the bathroom
  • Remove all extension cords or wires that may obstruct pathways
  • Remove scatter rugs or secure them to the existing floor
  • Remove thick carpeting if a walker or wheelchair is being utilized
  • Remove any debris and obstacles from outdoor walkways. Install handrails on steps or uneven paths
  • Doorways may need to be widened if you anticipate the use of a wheelchair. A change in elevation from room to room may be difficult for both wheelchairs and walkers; a more graduated slope may need to be built
  • Make sure that daily housekeeping chores, such as cleaning up spills or removing clutter can be maintained

Lighting

  • Be sure vision is checked regularly and that eyeglasses are in good condition
  • Check to see that all light switches are accessible, consider if a wheelchair or walker may be in use
  • Make sure there are flashlights, and extra batteries, in easy to reach places
  • Check that blinds, curtains, and shades are in working order and can be left open during the day for more natural light
  • Install automatic nightlights to assist in orienting an individual at night. This is especially important if frequent trips to the bathroom are necessary
  • Check around the house for areas of low lighting. Poor visibility can affect depth perception and create a risk for falls
  • Maintain well-lit outdoor stairways and entrances. Consider motion sensors or light sensors that increase visibility for entrances at night
  • Make sure someone can assist with replacing burnt out light bulbs. Keep a supply on hand

Bathrooms

  • Install grab bars in shower or bathtub to assist with getting in and out of tub
  • Make sure that towel racks, toilet paper holders and other wall attachments are securely fastened to the wall
  • Install a handheld adjustable showerhead for easier bathing
  • Make sure that towels are easily reached from the tub or shower. Toiletries should be near the sink or toilet depending on use
  • Apply nonskid materials to floor tub or shower stall
  • Consider a bath bench or shower seat in the tub for added comfort and safety while bathing
  • Consider an over the toilet commode or raised toilet seat to help with getting on and off the toilet
  • Remove cleaning products, decorations, and other nonessential items from bathroom to reduce clutter
  • Keep medications and health aides in an uncluttered space so they can be easily located and identified

Kitchen

  • Keep refrigerated medications separate from food. Use a plastic container or shelf on the refrigerator door to separate medications and make them easier to find
  • Kitchen stoves, particularly those using gas, pose an on-going concern for accidents. Consider increasing the use of microwaves and countertop appliances
  • Ensure that someone can maintain the contents of the refrigerator and discard old or spoiled food
  • Label foods that are removed from their original packages

Telephones

  • Be sure all residents can hear the phone ringing
  • Pre-programming important numbers is helpful--be sure the user understands how to operate the features of the phone
  • Keep emergency numbers posted near the phone
  • Install a phone near the bed
  • Consider an Emergency Response system

Structural

  • Check that shelves are well secured to the wall and items place on them are stable
  • Install shelves, counter tops and other storage containers within easy reach – especially for items used every day. Remove step stools and ladders from the house if they might be used inappropriately
  • Consider ramps for easy access for individuals with walkers or wheelchairs
  • Make sure the equipment can fit easily into and out of the house in case of emergencies
  • Remove unnecessary furniture. Cover sharp edges of furniture to prevent injury
  • Be sure the volume of the doorbell is adequate. For those with a hearing impairment consider an alternative such as a flashing light indicating someone is at the door
  • Check that interior doors are not easily locked accidentally. Keep lock opening tools handy for bathroom doors
  • External locks should be easy to latch and provide adequate protection from intruders
  • Make sure that spare keys are distributed to friends or neighbors who can help gain access to the house during an emergency
  • Windows should open easily and not fall shut accidentally
  • Sliding doors should open easily and have visible decals on glass panels. If the track for a sliding door poses a fall risk the door should be removed or replaced

Medications

  • Keep a current record of all medications. Consider placing in an area where emergency responders would notice the list
  • Clearly label all medications. If more than one person is in the household write the name of the medication, and the name of the user, on the cap or elsewhere in plain sight
  • Discard old or expired medications
  • Use a weekly pill dispenser if the individual takes several medications daily. If the user is unable, have someone take responsibility for filling the dispenser each week and checking the supply of medication
  • Read the warning labels on all medication bottles. Ask a physician or pharmacist about potential interactions

Fire Protection

  • Install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of the home
  • Make sure someone takes responsibility for changing batteries on a set periodic schedule (chose birthdays or holidays to help remember)
  • Identify the safest exits in the event of a fire. Discuss different areas of the house where the fire may start. Develop several exit routes depending on the location
  • Practice fire drills to determine how well residents can react during an emergency

Weather

  • Make sure walkways can be maintained to be clear of snow and ice
  • Provide screens, fans, or air conditioners in hot weather
  • Check air filters and ventilation to promote good air circulation
  • During rainy weather, check for water damage and leaks
  • Check basements for water accumulation and/or mold
  • Be sure to regulate water temperature to match the season. A warm setting in the winter may turn to hot in the summer
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