Keep the home safety for the elderly

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Each year many older Americans are injured in and around their homes. More than 600,000 people over age 65 were treated in one year in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with products they live with and use every day.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) operators believe that many of these injuries result from hazards that are easy to overlook, but also easy to fix. Look at your own home or that of an elderly friend or parent with a critical eye. Try to spot potential safety problems. Performing such a safety check with older people (and making needed changes) would be a good project for church groups.

Arrange furniture so that outlets are available for lamps and appliances without needing to use extension cords. Furniture resting on cords can damage them, creating fire and shock hazards. Don't run electric cords under carpet. Replace any cords that are damaged or frayed.

Email newsletter signup

If an extension cord is needed, be sure that it has a sufficient amp or wattage rating. Overloaded extension cords can cause fires.

Check rugs and runners that tend to slide. Make them more secure by applying double-faced carpet tape or rubber backing to the back side. Check periodically to see if the slip-resistant backing or carpet tape need replacing.

Emergency telephone numbers for police, fire department (now 911) Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) along with at least one neighbor's number, should be located by the phone. Have at least one phone located low enough that it would be accessible in case of a fall.

Make sure smoke detectors are working properly. At least one smoke detector should be placed on every floor of the home. Check and replace batteries according to manufacturer's instructions; replacing the batteries on the dates that the time changes, in April and October, makes it easy to remember.

Check outlets and switches to see if they are hot. Unusually warm or hot outlets or switches may indicate unsafe wiring conditions. Unplug cords from such outlets and do not use the switches; have an electrician check the wiring as soon as possible.

Because older people need more light to see, they may tend to use bulbs that are of too high wattage for the fixture. Ceiling fixtures, recessed lights and hooded lamps trap heat. Check all the bulbs in use in the house and replace with correct type and wattage bulbs.

Have an emergency exit plan and an alternate plan for each room in the house in case of fire. Practice often so that everyone knows what to do and can act quickly.

Don't wear long, loose sleeves when you are cooking. Not only are long sleeves more likely to catch on fire, but they may catch on pot handles, causing scalds. Place potholders, dishtowels and plastic utensils away from the stove. Shorten or remove curtains that could brush against heat sources. Keep electric appliance cords away from sink areas and hot surfaces.

Use a sturdy stepstool to climb. One with a handrail that you can use to steady yourself is best.

In the bathroom, where surfaces are slippery, apply textured strips or nonskid mats on floors of tubs and showers and on the floor. Be sure grab bars are strong and stable. Always check water temperature by hand before stepping into the tub or shower.

Make sure that all medications are stored in their original containers and clearly marked. Check dates on prescriptions and flush outdated ones.