As a caregiver, we need to be aware of hazards that cause falls, fractures, burns, and other accidents in the home. These incidents cause injury and loss of mobility for individuals who are challenged with vision, balance and coordination impairments. In addition to the pain and expense of the injury, many times depression, social isolation and a feeling of helplessness replace independence.
Some accidents can he caused by medical issues such as sharp drops in blood pressure, numbness in the legs or feet, certain sedatives or anti-depressants, or problems with balance and equilibrium. These problems should be discussed with the individual’s physician as soon as possible. Use this checklist to help make simple changes to make the home safer.
Many accidents can be prevented by thoroughly evaluating the safety of the home and making the necessary modifications. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Take a close look at each entrance, room and stairwell. Check for hazards by using this checklist and then make the needed adaptations to provide a safe environment. By minimizing hazards, you are maximizing independence.
- Have clutter, newspapers, magazines or other objects been removed from the floor, stairs and counter-tops?
- Is there at least one sturdy, easy to grip handrail at the stairway? (Two are recommended if the individuals is utilizing a cane.)
- Have all rugs been secured with non-slip pads or tape?
- Does the individual wear sturdy, well fitting shoes? (Loose fitting and/or slip-on foot wear can cause an individual to be unstable when walking)
- Are there tripping hazards like electrical cords, footstools or other clutter near the floor, which might be difficult to see?
- Are lamps and appliances located near the outlets, so extension cords are not needed?
- Is the furniture placed with sufficient space allocated for easy egress around the room?
- Are the pots, pan and all the cooking utensils placed at a comfortable height?
- Is there a “Reaching Devise” available to utilize when selecting difficult to reach items in cabinets and on shelves?
- If a stepladder must be used, is it sturdy with handles and textured steps?
- Is there a sturdy cane, crutch, walker or bar close to the bed and chairs to assist in getting up?
- Can personal items such as eyeglasses, tissues, TV remotes or telephones easily be reached while in bed or sitting in a chair?
- Are light switches easily accessible?
- Have you considered changing the standard toggle switch to a rocker switch to help with ease of operating?
- Is the toilet at a comfortable height? (Consider adding a raised toilet seat, a toilet safety frame with armrests, or an over toilet adjustable commode)
- Are there grab bars near the toilet and tub and/or shower area? TOWEL BARS SHOULD NEVER BE USED AS HANDRAILS.
- Is there a bath chair in the shower area?
- Does the individual need a transfer tub bench to get in or out of the bathtub?
- Is there a hand-held shower spray that can be used while sitting on a bath chair or bench?
- Are necessary bath items (towels, washcloths, soap, shampoo, etc.) stored in an easy to reach location?
- Are towel bars, toilet and sink fixtures securely attached?
- Does the bathtub and/or shower have a non-slip surface?
- Are the knobs in the sink and tub clearly labeled. as hot and cold?
(If necessary, mark the hot water knob with red nail polish as a
- Are the thermostat, electrical outlets and light switches at easily reached heights?
- Are outdoor steps kept sturdy and textured to prevent slipping? (Add tread strips to provide texture)
Adequate lighting is essential throughout the home for safety and ‘Ay of life As individuals grow older, vision diminishes because …eyes restrict the amount of light that is coming in and is being absorbed. Frustration is common as simple tasks become more fi(&t because of vision changes. Make sure that regular eye exams j eyeglass prescriptions are kept up to date You can also help by making some modifications within the home.
- Is the lighting uniform from one room to the other? (Older eyes t ‘ke longer to adjust to light levels)
- Have you increased natural lighting by checking to see if windows and screens are clean?
- Is the lighting glare free? (eyes become more sensitive to glare as they age)
- Are all rooms hallways stairwells and entrances well lit?
- Are night -lights used in the bedrooms and bathrooms? (Motion activated lights do not interfere with sleeping.)
- Is there a motion activated light at the entranceway?
- If the threshold is at a different level it is adequately lit?
- Is lighting adequate for reading, sewing hobbies etc”
- Are there light switches at the top and bottom of staircases?
- Is there a plug-in rechargeable flashlight near each bed?
- Have wattages of bulbs been increased in lamps and fixtures to compensate for loss of vision? (Caution do not exceed ‘ianufactures posted guidelines)
Other Safety Concerns
Everyday safety practices and emergency planning cannot be left to chance. Review the plans with the individual periodically and practice emergency evacuations.
- Are emergency phone numbers AND the address of the residence posted near each telephone?
- Has everyone in the home been taught how to call 9-1-11 ● Is there an escape plan in case of fire?
- Is there a tornado or “shelterin place’ plan of action in place? ● Have all cords and wires been checked for fraying or wear?
- Is there a fire extinguisher readily available?
- Are smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms installed near each bedroom and the kitchen?
- Are batteries checked and changed when needed in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly? Have non-working alarms been replaced?
- Are outlets and plugs warm? If so, avoid using until an electrician can check them.
- Are electrical outlets overloaded with cords? (Never have more
than one high-wattage appliance plugged into a single outlet.)
- Avoid space heaters if possible. If they must be used, make sure
that they are kept away from flammable materials.
- Is water temperature set at 120 degrees or less to prevent burns?
- Are flammable liquids stored away from heat sources?
- Are hot and cold-water knobs marked clearly? (Label the hot water knob with nail polish or paint, if necessary.)
- Can doorknobs be opened by the individual? (Consider changing knobs to levers that are easier to open.)
- Can the individual lock and unlock the door?
This guide nformation originated from the United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham