Home Safety Tips for Older Adults
Tools and Tips
With a growing number of older adults living independently, it’s increasingly important to ensure that they’re safe at home.
Older Americans are involved in more than 2.3 million accidents in their homes each year. About 7,000 adults 65 and older die in such accidents annually. Falls, burns, and poisonings are among the most common accidents involving older people. Older adults have a high chance of being injured in accidents because they may:
- be less able to take quick action in case of an emergency due to problems with walking, seeing, memory, or hearing
- be taking medicines that slow their thinking
- live alone and have accidents when other people are not around to help.
Unfortunately, older adults who live alone may also become the victims of criminals who target older people. Knowing how to protect against this danger is important, too.
If you’re an older adult living alone, or have an older loved one living on his or her own, here’s what you need to do to stay safe:
Keep emergency numbers handy Always
keep a list of emergency numbers by each phone and write this big enough that you could read it easily if you were in a hurry or frightened. Be sure to list numbers for:
- Local Emergency Services (if other than 911)
- Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
- Fire Department
- Police Department
- Family member or friend to call in case of emergency
- Doctor’s office
Protect against fire and related dangers
- Replace appliances with fraying or damaged electrical cords (these can cause fires)
- Don’t put too many electric cords into one socket.
- Don’t use extension cords to plug extra lights or appliances into a socket.
- Install a smoke detector and replace the battery two times a year—each time you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time (mark your calendar to remind yourself).
- Keep a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen and in rooms with fireplaces, wood burning stoves, etc.
- Know at least two ways to get out of your apartment or home.
- Never smoke in bed or leave candles burning, even for a short time, in an empty room.
- Don’t wear loose clothes or clothes with long sleeves that could catch fire when you’re cooking.
- Make sure heaters are at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, such as curtains, bedding or furniture.
- Turn off space heaters when you leave the room.
- Make sure all hallways, stairs and paths are well lit and clear of objects such as books or shoes.
- Place rails and banisters on the sides of stairs. n Put no-skid tape on all stairs and other smooth surfaces so you don’t slip.
- Make sure all rugs are taped down to the floor so they do not move when you walk on them.
- Never place scatter rugs at the bottom or top of stairs.
- Choose non-slip footwear, e.g., slippers with rubber/no-slip bottoms.
- Don’t wear socks or stockings when walking on smooth floors; they can be slippery.
- Wear flat, thin-soled shoes that fit well.
- If you have a cane or a walker, be sure to use it at all times instead of holding onto walls and furniture.
- If you have fallen before, 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.
- Put things that you use all the time in easy-to-reach places.
- Do not rush to answer the phone. Many people fall trying to answer the phone. Either carry a cordless phone or let an answering machine pick up.
Avoid bathroom hazards
- Set the thermostat on the water heater no higher than 120° F to prevent scalding.
- Place grab bars in the shower to make getting in and out of the bathtub easier and safer. Put grab bars near the toilet.
- Put rubber mats in the bathtub to prevent slipping.
- Tell your doctor if you are having a hard time getting in and out of your tub. Your doctor can help you get a special tub chair or bench that is safe to use.
- Never try to heat your home with your stove, oven, or grill since these can give off carbon monoxide, which is a gas that you cannot see or smell, but is very deadly.
- Make sure there is a carbon monoxide detector near all bedrooms, and be sure to test and replace the battery two times a year—each time you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time (mark this on your calendar each year).
- Always keep prescription medications in their original containers so you don’t mix up your medicines.
- Ask your pharmacist to put large-print labels on your medications to make them easier to read.
- Take your medications in a room with lots of light so you can see the labels.
- Bring all of your pill bottles with you to your doctor’s appointments so he or she can look at them and make sure you are taking them the right way.
- Never mix bleach or ammonia or other cleaning liquids together when you are cleaning. When mixed, cleaning liquids can make deadly gases.
Protect against abuse
- Keep your windows and doors locked at all times. (Unfortunately, some criminals look for older people who live alone.)
- Never let a stranger into your home when you are there alone. Keep the door locked and the stranger out.
- Try not to go out and return home at exactly the same times each day. If you come and go at different times each day, it will be harder for strangers to know when to expect your home to be empty.
- Have a younger person record the message on your answering machine. A male voice is best.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other healthcare provider. Always consult your healthcare provider about your medications, symptoms, and health problems.
Last Updated January 2012