With an increasing number of older adults living independently, safety at home often remains a big concern. Most current environments do not meet our needs and abilities as we age. But with some creativity and flexibility, the home can be adapted to support these changes.
Keep emergency numbers handy
Always keep a list of emergency numbers by each phone. Write this information in large enough print that you can read it easily if you are in a hurry or frightened. Be sure to list numbers for:
- Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
- Family member or friend to call in case of emergency
- Healthcare provider’s office
- If you have difficulty with walking or balance, or have fallen in the past year, talk to your healthcare provider about having a special falls risk assessment.
- Ask your provider if you would benefit from an exercise program to prevent falls.
- If you have fallen before, or are scared of falling, think about buying a special alarm that you wear as a bracelet or necklace. Then, if you fall and can’t get to the phone, you can push a button on the alarm that will call emergency services for you.
- Don’t rush to answer the phone. Many people fall trying to answer the phone. Either carry a cordless or cell phone or let an answering machine pick up.
- When walking on smooth floors, wear non-slip footwear, such as slippers with rubber/no-slip bottoms or flat, thin-soled shoes that fit well.
- If you have a cane or a walker, use it at all times instead of holding onto walls and furniture.
Safety-proof your home
- Make sure all hallways, stairs, and paths are well lit and clear of objects such as books or shoes.
- Use rails and banisters when going up and down the stairs. Never place scatter rugs at the bottom or top of stairs.
- Tape all area rugs to the floor so they do not move when you walk on them.
Protect against abuse
- Keep your windows and doors locked at all times.
- Never let a stranger into your home when you are there alone.
- Talk over offers made by telephone salespeople with a friend or family member.
- Do not share your personal information, such as social security number, credit card, bank information, or account passwords, with people you do not know who contact you.
- Always ask for written information about any offers, prizes, or charities and wait to respond until you have reviewed the information thoroughly.
- Do not let yourself be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts, or making donations. It is never rude to wait and discuss the plans with a family member or friend.
Try to create a home that feels less restrictive. Encourage independence and social interaction. Many home modifications are relatively inexpensive and can be done as DIY projects. Improving lighting, clearing a convenient path from the driveway to the entry, removing clutter by donating or disposing of items that are no longer of use are all examples of simple things that can be done to improve an elder’s everyday life at home.