If you’re providing care or planning on providing care to someone in the home, it’s important to consider the safety of your surroundings. Most homes are not designed for care giving, so you may need to make modifications.
Walk through each room in the home, paying special attention to the bedroom, bathroom, and hallways that will be used the most. Look for any obvious signs of safety hazards such as exposed wires or unstable furniture. Then think about any changes that may need to be made. Your health care provider can help you plan and implement any modifications that are appropriate for your situation. Keep in mind the following suggestions:
Safety in the Bedroom
- Install night lights
- Arrange furniture to allow a clear path around the room
- Avoid raised rugs or unsecured rugs that could cause slipping
- Get bed rails if the patient is at risk to fall out of bed
- Put baby monitor in the room if you’ll need to be able to hear the person while you are in other rooms or at night
- Place a bell or other summoning device in the bedroom that the patient can use to call for assistance
Safety in the Bathroom
- Hang up night lights
- Put grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet
- Place non-skid mats in the shower and on bathroom floors
- Install a raised toilet seat for easy access on and off the toilet
Safety Elsewhere in the Home
- Put handrails in the hallways, entryways, and stairs
- Clear paths around furniture and in hallways
- Install a ramp on entryways and stairs
- Put a fully charged cordless phone within reach of the patient
- A medical alert system if the patient will need to activate help quickly
- Make sure you have working smoke detectors and fire alarms
- Posted emergency numbers in a conspicuous place
- If your loved one uses a walker or cane, make sure there is room in the hallways and room to allow its use.
- If your loved one uses a wheelchair and he is at risk of falling out due to weakness, use a lap tray. Any medical equipment supplier can provide you with one of these.
- If your loved one needs a hospital bed, decide whether you will need bed rails to prevent falls out of bed.
- If your loved one uses an oxygen concentrator, make sure it is plugged into it’s own power outlet. Don’t allow anyone to smoke around oxygen.
- Consider a bedside commode (BSC) to minimize trips to the bathroom at night.
- If your loved one is heavy and you will have to do any lifting, consider a mechanical lift to assist you.
If your loved one will spend any time at home alone, consider setting them up with a remote medical alert system, such as Lifeline. This can help them alert someone immediately if they fall or need urgent assistance and don't have access to a telephone.
Other things you can do to prevent falls is to have your loved ones vision checked since poor eyesight, wearing wrong prescription, glaucoma, and cataracts can affect movement. Also request your health care provider to review all medications your loved one is taking. Some medications can affect balance or cause drowsiness or dizziness.
Falls can't always be prevented but ensuring that the home is a safe place will make your job of caring for your loved one much easier and provide you with added piece of mind.
NHPCO Caring Connections, Home Safety, www.caringinfo.org
Center for Disease Control (CDC) Fact Sheet on the Cost of Falls Among Older Adults.