The Seniors Safe Living Guide, Part II: Keeping Your Home Safe
The Seniors Safe Living Guide, Part II: Keeping Your Home Safe

Injuries can result from seemingly innocent things around your home - many of which are easily fixed or adapted after doing some detective work to track them down. The following checklists will help you inspect your home for evidence of trouble that may be waiting to happen. Every NO answer is a clue that your home may not be as safe as it could be and that you should be making the needed changes as soon as you can. Your safety depends on it! 

Outside

  • Do all your entrances have an outdoor light?
  • Do your outdoor stairs, pathways or decks have railings and provide good traction (i.e. textured surfaces)?
  • Are the front steps and walkways around your house in good repair and free of clutter, snow or leaves?
  • Do the doorways to your balcony or deck have a low sill or threshold?
  • Can you reach your mailbox safely and easily?
  • Is the number of your house clearly visible from the street and well lit at night?

Tip: If you live in a rural area and don't have a visible house number, make sure your name is on your mailbox and keep a clear description of directions to your home (main roads, landmarks, etc.) by each phone in your house.

Inside

  • Are all rooms and hallways in your home well lit?
  • Are all throw rugs and scatter mats secured in place to keep them from slipping?
  • Have you removed scatter mats from the top of the stairs and high traffic areas?
  • Are your high traffic areas clear of obstacles?
  • Do you always watch that your pets are not underfoot?
  • If you use floor wax, do you use the non-skid kind?
  • Do you have a first aid kit and know where it is?
  • Do you have a list of emergency numbers near all phones?

Tips: Install a seat at the entrance of your home to remove or put on your shoes and boots. Avoid throw rugs and scatter mats. They're dangerous!

Stairs

  • Are your stairways well lit and do you have light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs?
  • Are your stairs in good repair and free of clutter?
  • Do the steps of your stairs have a non-skid surface?
  • Are there solid handrails on both sides of the stairway (height of 36" to 39")?
  • Do you remove your reading glasses when using the stairs?

Tip: To help avoid taking a misstep, you can paint wooden or concrete steps with a strip of contrasting color on the edge of each step or on the top and bottom steps. Don't rush going up or down stairs. Rushing is a major cause of falls.

Fire and hazardous materials

  • Do you have a fire detector on every floor of your home?
  • Do you test your smoke alarm every six months?
  • Have you developed an escape route in case of fire and a fire safety plan?
  • Are you registered on your apartment building's fire safety plan?
  • Do you have a carbon monoxide alarm in your home?
  • Are flammable and hazardous materials clearly labeled and properly stored?
  • If you use a space heater, is it placed well away from flammable substances and materials?
  • Do you use appropriate power bars to prevent overloading electrical outlets?
  • If you live in an older home, have you or an electrician inspected your wiring, fuse box, electrical cords and appliances for safety?
  • Do you have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it?

Tip: To remember to test your smoke alarm twice a year, make a habit of testing it when you turn your clocks forward in the spring and back in the fall.

Bathroom

  • Do you test the water temperature before you get into the bathtub or shower?
  • Is your hot water temperature set to the recommended 49°C (120°F)?
  • Do you have non-slip surfaces in the tub or shower?
  • Do bath mats next to the tub or shower have rubberized backing or are they secured in place to keep them from slipping?
  • Do you have a night light in the bathroom?
  • Does your bathroom door lock have an emergency release?
  • Do you have grab bars that have been properly placed and well anchored to the wall in the bathtub or shower?
  • If you have any trouble getting on and off the toilet, do you have a raised toilet seat and a grab bar that is well anchored?
  • If it's difficult for you to take a shower standing up, have you considered a bath seat?

Tip: Some tile and bath cleaning products actually increase slipperiness. Be careful when using such products.

Kitchen

  • Are your pots and pans, canned goods and staple foods stored in an easy to reach location - between knee and shoulder heights?
  • Are heavy items stored in the lower cupboards and light items in the higher cupboards?
  • Do you have a stable step stool (with a safety rail) for reaching high places?
  • Are the "off" and "on" positions on the stove dials clearly marked?
  • Are your oven mitts within easy reach when cooking?
  • Do you make sure never to cook while wearing loose-fitting clothing or sleepwear?
  • Do you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, mounted on the wall away from the stove?
  • Do you regularly check that your fire extinguisher is in good operating order?

Tip: Use heat-resistant oven mitts rather than potholders; they provide a better grip on hot containers and give you better protection against splatters and steam. If you do experience a burn, immerse in cool water (not ice or butter!).

Bedroom

  • Is there a light switch near the entrance to your bedroom?
  • Do you have a lamp or a light switch near your bed?
  • Do you keep night lights or other sources of light on in case you get up in the middle of the night?
  • Is there a clear path from your bed to the bathroom?
  • Do you have a phone and a list of emergency phone numbers near your bed?

Tip: Make sure your bed is not too high or low, so that it is easy to get in and out of it. You can purchase short bed rails to steady yourself when getting out of bed.

Garage/Basement/Workroom

  • Are your workroom and laundry room well lit?
  • Do you have a telephone in the basement and a list of emergency phone numbers?
  • Do you keep floors and benches clean to reduce fire and tripping hazards?
  • Are all your tools and service equipment in good condition? Are the safety locks on?
  • Is your work area well ventilated, summer and winter?
  • Are heavy items on lower shelves or in bottom cupboards?
  • Do you use a ladder or a stable step stool (with a safety rail) for reaching high places?
  • Are all chemicals, such as bleach, cleaners and paint thinners clearly identified?
  • Are flammable materials stored as indicated by the directions on the label and away from sources of heat and flame?
  • If you have a gas barbecue, is your propane tank stored outside of the house?

Tip: When you use a ladder, never stand or sit on the top three rungs. Maintain your balance by keeping your body centered between the rails, not reaching to the sides and not pushing or pulling on anything.

Childproofing (a must, for doting grandparents)

  • Have you removed items from your lower surfaces to prevent breakage, injury and spills?
  • Are all medications and pill boxes stored out of reach?
  • Are your cleaning products and paints out of reach?
  • Have you installed safety catches on your cupboards and medicine cabinet doors?
  • Have you purchased safety gates for stairs or unsafe rooms?
  • Is there a safety latch on your stove and dishwasher?
  • Are extension, telephone and Venetian blind cords out of children's way?
  • Are your garage and workshop locked with deadbolts installed high on the doors?

Tip: If you have a pool, or if there's one in the apartment or condo where you live, exercise extreme vigilance. Make sure the pool is absolutely off-limits to children by installing safety devices on house doors leading to the pool and a very high latch on the pool fence gates. Never leave any child without supervision.

Eileen's story When Eileen Shannon was taking care of her ailing mother-in-law, she decided to get grab bars installed in her bathroom. She also acquired a bath seat. She was pretty familiar with safety devices and she knew her mother-in-law needed the support in the bathroom. Now, several years later, Eileen is surprised to find herself using those same grab bars. Although Eileen is fairly healthy, she did have two unexpected bouts of illness. "I thought, I'm 69, I won't need those things. But when you get ill, and you come back from the hospital and you're weak, you're mighty glad to have that bar on the bathtub wall." Eileen's house has other safety features she installed and that she finds handy, such as improved lighting, night lights, and lever taps that are easy to turn. As she lives in a large house and her home is the place where everyone gathers for family get-togethers, she has also childproofed the rooms. When she looks ahead to the future, she sees herself remaining in this house safely for a long time to come.

 

Next: Part III of the Seniors Safe Living Guide: Keeping Yourself Healthy and Active >

 

Reproduced from the Public Health Agency of Canada website.