Home Safety Guide
a checklist for our patients and families
Home Safety Guide FALLS AT HOME Each year, thousands of Americans fall at home. Many of them are seriously injured, and some are disabled. In 2002, more than 12,800 people over age 65 died and 1.6 million were treated in emergency departments because of falls. Falls are often due to hazards that are easy to overlook but easy to fix. This checklist will help you find and fix those hazards in your home. The checklist asks about hazards found in each room of your home. For each hazard, the checklist tells you how to fix the problem. At the end of the checklist, youâ€™ll find other tips for preventing falls.
Home Safety FLOORS: Look at the floor in each room. Q: When you walk through a room, do you have to walk around furniture? ❒❒ Ask someone to move the furniture so your path is clear. Q: Do you have throw rugs on the floor? ❒❒ Remove the rugs or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so the rugs won’t slip. Q: Are there papers, books, towels, shoes, magazines, boxes, blankets, or other objects on the floor? ❒❒ Pick up things that are on the floor. Always keep objects off the floor. Q: Do you have to walk over or around wires or cords (like lamp, telephone, or extension cords)? ❒❒ Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so you can’t trip over them. If needed, have an electrician put in another outlet. STAIRS AND STEPS: Look at the stairs you use both inside and outside your home. Q: Are there papers, shoes, books, or other objects on the stairs? ❒❒ Pick up things on the stairs. Always keep objects off stairs. Q: Are some steps broken or uneven? ❒❒ Fix loose or uneven steps. Q: Are you missing a light over the stairway? ❒❒ Have an electrician put in an overhead light at the top and bottom of the stairs. Q: Do you have only one light switch for your stairs (only at the top or at the bottom of the stairs)? ❒❒ Have an electrician put in a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairs. You can get light switches that glow. Q: Has the stairway light bulb burned out? ❒❒ Have a friend or family member change the light bulb. Q: Is the carpet on the steps loose or torn? ❒❒ Make sure the carpet is firmly attached to every step, or remove the carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads to the stairs.
Q: Are the handrails loose or broken? Is there a handrail on only one side of the stairs? ❒❒ Fix loose handrails or put in new ones. Make sure handrails are on both sides of the stairs and are as long as the stairs. KITCHEN: Look at your kitchen and eating area. Q: Are the things you use often on high shelves? ❒❒ Move items in your cabinets. Keep things you use often on the lower shelves (about waist level). Q: Is your step stool unsteady? ❒❒ If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool. BATHROOMS: Look at all your bathrooms. Q: Is the tub or shower floor slippery? ❒❒ Put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower. Q: Do you need some support when you get in and out of the tub or up from the toilet? ❒❒ Have a carpenter put grab bars inside the tub and next to the toilet. BEDROOMS: Look at all your bedrooms. Q: Is the light near the bed hard to reach? ❒❒ Place a lamp close to the bed where it’s easy to reach. Q: Is the path from your bed to the bathroom dark? ❒❒ Put in a night-light so you can see where you’re walking. Some nightlights go on by themselves after dark. Other Things You Can Do to Prevent Falls ❒❒ Exercise regularly. ❒❒ Exercise makes you stronger and improves your balance and coordination. ❒❒ Have your doctor or pharmacist look at all the medicines you take, even over-the-counter medicines. Some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy. ❒❒ Have your vision checked at least once a year by an eye doctor. Poor vision can increase your risk of falling.
❒❒ Get up slowly after you sit or lie down. ❒❒ Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers. ❒❒ Improve the lighting in your home. Put in brighter light bulbs. Florescent bulbs are bright and cost less to use. ❒❒ It’s safest to have uniform lighting in a room. Add lighting to dark areas. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare. ❒❒ Paint a contrasting color on the top edge of all steps so you can see the stairs better. For example, use a light color paint on dark wood. Other Safety Tips ❒❒ Keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone. ❒❒ Put a phone near the floor in case you fall and can’t get up. ❒❒ Think about wearing an alarm device that will bring help in case you fall and can’t get up.
“Last Saturday, our son helped us move our furniture. Now all the rooms have clear paths.”
Fire Safety To protect yourself and those you care about, follow these seven tips: ✔✔ Install and Maintain Smoke Detectors ❒❒ Install working smoke detectors on every level of your home, especially near sleeping areas Test and dust each detector monthly, and change the batteries at least once a year. ✔✔ Use Smoking Materials Safely ❒❒ Never smoke in bed, while drowsy, or while under the influence of medication or alcohol. Use large, deep ashtrays for smoking debris, and let the contents cool before you dispose of them. ✔✔ Pay Attention to Your Cooking ❒❒ Keep pot handles turned inward, and keep cooking surfaces and surrounding areas free from clutter and grease build-up. Use pot holders and oven mitts. Avoid wearing loose clothing with flowing sleeves while cooking. Take a reminder with you if you must leave the kitchen with food cooking on the range top. ✔✔ Heat Your Home Safely ❒❒ Have a professional service all heating equipment annually. Keep anything that can burn or melt away from all heaters, furnaces, fireplaces, and water heaters. Never use a range or oven to heat your home. ✔✔ Practice Electrical Safety ❒❒ Have a professional electrician inspect your home’s electrical wiring system at least every 10 years, and make recommended repairs. Never overload the electrical system. Plug each appliance directly into its own outlet and avoid using extension cords. Have an electrician install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in rooms where water may be present. Install and maintain electrical appliances according to the manufacturers’ instructions. ✔✔ Keep Matches and Lighters Away from Children ❒❒ Store matches and lighters in a locked drawer or a high cabinet away from the reach of children. Make sure lighters are child-resistant . ✔✔ Know What to Do in Case of Fire ❒❒ Practice two ways out of every room in your home. Get out as soon as you discover a fire; do not try to fight the fire or gather possessions. Once out of the house, immediately dial 9-1-1 or your local emergency number for help, preferably from a neighbor’s phone.
Reasons behind the Fire Safety Checklist Older adults (age 65 and over) are twice as likely to die in fires than any other age group. The death rate for those 85 and over is four times the national average. Older people are also at higher risk of injury from fires. The following tips can help protect you and those you care about from fires and burns. Install and Maintain Smoke Detectors Install working smoke detectors on every level of your home, especially near sleeping areas. Test and dust each detector monthly, and change the batteries at least once a year. Smoke detectors have significantly reduced the risk of death or injury from fire. Smoke detectors give people an early warning that allows for early escape. If possible, install smoke detectors away from kitchens and bathrooms to reduce nuisance alarms. To control nuisance alarms, install detectors with a temporary silencing feature. If you are hearing-impaired, install a detector that alarms with a visual signal. If necessary, get someone (a relative, neighbor, or fire department official) to help you test and clean each detector monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Use Smoking Material Safely Never smoke in bed, while drowsy, or while under the influence of medication or alcohol. Use large, deep ashtrays for smoking debris, and let the contents cool before you dispose of them. Careless smoking accounts for nearly one-third of the fire deaths in adults over age 70. It is also a leading cause of fire injuries among older people. If you smoke, never smoke in bed, while drowsy or while under the influence of medication or alcohol Use large, deep ashtrays so smoking materials donâ€™t fall out. Warm ashes dumped in wastebaskets can smolder for hours, then ignite surrounding trash. At the end of the day, put the ashtray in the sink, fill it with water and let it sit overnight before you dispose of the contents Or, dispose of cigarettes and matches in a metal container, such as a coffee can with a lid, and let it cool overnight. Check furniture for smoldering cigarette butts and ashes before going to bed.
Pay Attention to Your Cooking Keep pot handles turned inward, and keep cooking surfaces and surrounding areas free from clutter and grease build-up. Use pot holders and oven mitts. Avoid wearing loose clothing with flowing sleeves while cooking. Take a reminder with you if you must leave the kitchen with food cooking on the range top. Cooking fires are a leading cause of burn injuries among older people. Prevent fires and burns by being watchful and alert when you cook, keeping pot handles turned inward, not overheating food (especially fats and oils) and keeping cooking surfaces clean. Always use pot holders and oven mitts when opening the oven and handling hot pots and pans to prevent burns. While cooking, avoid wearing loose clothing with flowing sleeves, such as nightgowns or bathrobes These can catch on fire from a burner. If you must leave the kitchen when you are cooking, set a timer and take a pot holder or wooden spoon with you to remind you that food is cooking Heat Your Home Safely Have a professional service all heating equipment annually. Keep anything that can burn or melt away from all heaters, furnaces, fireplaces, and water heaters. Never use a range or oven to heat your home. Hundreds of fires start each year when things that burn, such as curtains, clothing, bedding, gasoline, or paint solvents, are placed too close to heaters, furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces or water heaters. Store flammable liquids like cleaning solvents and gasoline outside of your home. Have at least three feet of clearance in all directions around portable/space heaters. Use the proper fuel for all heating equipment. Change filters in furnaces monthly Keep chimneys clean. To prevent scalds, set the temperature of your water heater no higher than 120Â°F. All heating devices should be checked and serviced every year by a professional Use your range or oven for cooking only â€” never to heat your home.
Practical Electrical Safety Have a professional electrician inspect your homeâ€™s electrical wiring system at least every 10 years, and make recommended repairs. Never overload the electrical system. Plug each appliance directly into its own outlet, and avoid using extension cords. Have an electrician install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in rooms where water may be present. Install and maintain electrical appliances according to the manufacturersâ€™ instructions. Homes more than 40 years old are three times more likely to catch on fire from electrical causes than homes 11 to 20 years old. Thatâ€™s because older wiring may not have the capacity to safely handle newer appliances and equipment and may not incorporate updated safety features. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are important electrical safety devices that offer superior protection against dangerous electric shock and also may prevent some electrical fires. Have GFCIs installed in bathroom and kitchen circuits, and in other locations where water and dampness may be present. Call a professional electrician to make sure you have the proper fuses, find reasons for blown fuses and tripped circuit breakers, replace old or damaged outlets and install more outlets if needed You are less likely to overload electrical outlets if you use no more than one high-wattage appliance on a circuit at a time. Extension cords are meant for temporary use only, and should be unplugged when not in use. If you see frayed cords on older appliances, have the cord repaired; better yet, replace the appliance altogether. Keep Matches and Lighters Away from Children Store matches and lighters in a locked drawer or a high cabinet away from the reach of children. Make sure lighters are child-resistant. Young children are often attracted to products that can produce flames. Be sure to lock away any matches and lighters when you have young visitors in your home. Using lighters that are child-resistant can prevent deaths and injuries. If you light candles in your home, keep them out of the reach of children.
Know What to Do in Case of Fire Practice two ways out of every room in your home. Get out as soon as you discover a fire; do not try to fight the fire or gather possessions. Once out of the house, immediately dial 9-1-1 or your local emergency number for help, preferably from a neighborâ€™s phone. Planning what to do in case of fire can make the difference between life and death. You should practice two ways out of every room in your home. If you use a wheelchair or walker, or otherwise might have a problem escaping from a fire, discuss your escape plans ahead of tune with your fire department, your family, the building manager and neighbors Let them know about your special circumstances and ask them to help plan the best escape routes for you. The most important thing when a fire occurs is to get out of the house immediately, and call the fire department. If you are behind a closed door, feel it with your hand before opening it; if the door is hot, exit the room some other way, if possible. Make sure windows can be unlocked and opened, and security bars released. If you are passing through a smoky area, stoop low so that your head is beneath the smoke. If your clothes catch on fire, stop, gently drop to the ground, cover your face and roll to smother the flames. Do not try to fight the fire; that will only delay your escape. Leave your possessions behind, and never go back into a burning building for any reason.
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