People are living longer these days and this, plus other factors such as medical advances, means that more of us are living with disabilities, too. Hazards in the home are responsible for about a third of the injuries suffered by older adults, and people with impairments may face difficulties — and barriers to independent living — in their own environments.
It therefore makes sense to observe household habits, identify problem areas, and make changes that will help create safer, more accessible living situations. June is Home Safety Month, so take a look around your home. Below is a list of easy fixes to common problems.
Improve lighting if necessary, both indoors and out, to add safety and security. Take special note of stairways, and don’t forget closets. Install nightlights or motion sensor lights in hallways and bathrooms used at night. Porches and dark entryways should also be well lighted, both to prevent accidents and discourage burglaries. Many LED porch lights on the market now have motion sensors and do not require electricity. Also, many models available can stand on a surface or be mounted on a wall. Replace any spent light bulbs as soon as they need to be replaced.
Keychain flashlights allow maneuvering through dark parking areas — or to the bathroom.
Stair safety treads provide stability, and a contrasting color tread at the edge of a step gives a visual cue. Many assorted widths, colors, and textures are available to choose from. Tighten any loose stair treads.
Handrails should be positioned about adult elbow height on both sides of staircases. Knobs at both ends will alert the user that the stairs end.
Grab bars should be situated vertically at tops of stairs, and bars or handrails in bathrooms where needed (towel racks should never be used for support). A shower seat and a hand-held showerhead will help avoid fatigue and eliminate bending. Choose a nonslip seat with rustproof legs that fits in standard tubs and showers. Most hand-held showerheads feature various massage and power settings, adequate hose lengths, and include a stationary mounting bracket. Installation is generally very easy.
Nonslip coatings, safety mats, or strips will guard against slips in tubs and showers. Bathmats should have nonskid backings.
Limit the use of extension cords and fasten them to baseboards. Use clips that hold firmly and remove clean with no surface damage. Replace any extension cords that are frayed.
Throw rugs should be removed or secured to the floor with double-sided rug tape. Nonslip rug pads are another option to keep area rugs in place. These are available in many sizes and they also help to protect wood flooring.
Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for those with poor hand strength.
Relocate items in cupboards and cabinets so they are low enough to be easily reached.
Lower closet shelves if necessary.
A long-handled grasper can be used to reach objects on high shelves or on the floor. If a stepstool is necessary, a sturdy one with side handles should be used.
Clear moss and mildew from shady stairs, sidewalks, and patios so areas are not slippery. There are many earth-friendly products in the marketplace today to do the job, and some will actually beautify wood.
Use hose reels to loop hoses out of the way and prevent tripping.
Childproof areas that contain hazardous materials, including under the sink and medicine cabinets. Install latches on drawers that contain sharp tools and knives and on any drawers that a child could reach and pull out. (Don’t forget about that liquor cabinet if you have teenagers!)
Put padlocks on any areas you wish to keep secure from children. If adults share a lock, there are many padlocks available that spell out a word so that multiple parties don’t have to remember numeric passwords.
Keep a few fire extinguishers around the house, and make sure you know how to use one. A fire extinguisher marked 3-A:40-B:C is the fire department’s recommended choice, because it will put out wood, paper, liquid, and electrical fires.
Batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced regularly.