Home Safety – Preventing Falls

“There’s no place like home.”  This is where we feel most comfortable and safe. It can, however, be filled with obvious and hidden hazards. A big part of home safety is preventing the most common of home accidents — falls.

We usually associate falls with the elderly, but consider these possible causes and you’ll see how it can happen to anyone:

  • Tripping
  • Stumbling
  • Slipping
  • Poor vision
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Improper footwear
  • Carelessness
  • Lack of sleep
  • Medications
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Decreased bone density
  • Shorter reaction time

Broken bones, sprains, concussions, cuts, and other injuries can result from a fall that took only a split second to happen. Recovery from the injury can take a long time, possibly resulting in complications and long-term effects. Naturally, it’s best to take preventive steps to reduce the risk of falls to begin with. Here are some measures you can take to make the environment safer for you and your loved ones:

Use night lights or plug-in motion sensor lights throughout the house, especially on dark hallways and stairways.

Reduce floor clutter such as cords, shoes, pet toys, newspapers.

Use non-skid tape to secure the edges of carpet.

Keep stairs free and clear of all objects.

Remove throw rugs.

Arrange furniture so there is enough room to safely walk around each item while facing forward. Picture how the risk increases if a person must walk sideways to squeeze between pieces. Be sure to leave enough room for a walker, cane, crutches, or other mobility aids.

Keep frequently used items within easy reach to avoid use of step stools.

Remove casters on furniture. While casters make furniture easy to move, it poses a danger for that very reason. It’s best to remove them to avoid being thrown off-balance.

Purchase appropriate good-fitting footwear with non-skid soles. Avoid flip-flops and shoes with laces.

Use contrasting colors on floors, walls, and furniture to make it easier for those with vision problems to navigate.

Avoid using glossy floor polish or wax as it can make the floor slippery and could also cause a glare, impairing their vision.

Clean up spills and pet accidents immediately.

Check that handrails on stairs, showers, and elsewhere are installed securely at the proper height.

Apply non-slip threads on bare wooden steps.

Instruct your loved one in the proper use of a walker, cane, or other walking aid.

Remove or lower raised thresholds between rooms, or make them beveled to reduce the risk of tripping.

Adjust the height of their bed so they can easily maneuver in and out of it.

Install bathroom doors to open outwards to allow access to someone who has fallen. Consider replacing the doorknobs with non-locking ones.

Install a raised toilet seat with grab bars next to it.

Use a shower seat and non-skid mats or appliques in the bathtub and shower.

Teach pets not to jump up on people. It doesn’t take much to knock someone down if they have balance problems or are frail.

Don’t forget about the yard:

Repair cracks on concrete pathways and patios.

Clear the path of hoses, garden tools, rocks and stones, branches, pet toys, and the like.

Level out sunken areas.

Install good outdoor lighting and handrails where needed.

Use reflective tape or paint on steps to improve visibility.

Provide seating in the yard should they need to sit down and rest.

Cover window wells.

Last, but not least, purchase a medical alert device with fall detection. The capability of the device to detect a fall is important.  They may not be able to push the button for help if they’re unconscious or badly injured. This device will automatically call for assistance.

For other safety concerns, see the post about burns and scalds.

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Burns and Scalds

Accidents can happen to anyone, but they become a major concern for those who are frail, disabled, confused, or otherwise impaired. Burns and scalds may happen as the result of carelessness, weakness, poor eyesight, poor judgement, inattention, and any number of things. For example, the coffee pot or pan of boiling water may be too heavy for them to handle. They may doze off while smoking a cigarette, causing a burn to the skin or catching their clothes on fire. They may lose their balance, causing hot liquids to spill or be knocked off the stove or table. I’m sure you can think of many other causes.

Here are some suggestions to lessen the risks:

Use small appliances. They’ll be lighter in weight and easier to handle.

Plug appliances directly into an outlet, not an extension cord due to the possibility of tripping, causing hot liquid or food to spill.

Set the hot water heater to a temperature at or below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Avoid clothes with long, loose-fitting sleeves when cooking.

Check the oven control knobs to be sure they’re clearly and correctly labeled, easy to grasp, and in good working order. You might want to consider purchasing an automatic shut-off switch for the stove.

Install non-slip grips on handles of pots and pans.

Don’t place hot liquids or foods at the edge of a counter or table. Move them inward so they can’t be accidentally knocked off.

Check their bath water or shower before they get in to be sure it’s not too hot. Their reaction time and/or sense of touch may be impaired.

Make it a rule there’s no smoking in bed or after taking medications that could cause drowsiness.

Safety concerns go beyond the physical dangers.  You may be interested to read about Scams under the category “Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!”

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Con artists are adept at identifying people who will be most vulnerable to their tactics. What makes people, especially the elderly, easy targets for scams?   Here are some common reasons according to the FBI:

Seniors are apt to have a ‘nest egg,’ own their home, and have excellent credit, making them attractive to con artists.

People who grew up in the 30s, 40s, and 50s were raised to be polite and trusting, making them less likely to hang up the phone or shut the door on a stranger.

Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud; they’re ashamed, fearful of retaliation, and don’t know where to turn.

It may take weeks or months for them to realize they’ve been swindled.  By then their memory of specific details has faded; this makes them poor witnesses.

As people struggle with health issues, they long for a higher quality of life.  This makes them susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer and anti-aging properties, etc. 

~ www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors

Sadly, religious scams and fraudulent charities rely on tactics using guilt and fear to influence their victims.  The elderly or those facing a terminal illness will often feel a need to “make amends” at this point in their life and find comfort in doing “good works.”  In addition, they may not be able to think clearly/logically due to medications, dementia, emotional issues and more, which makes them prime targets.

It’s not just the elderly who are at risk.  Those who rely on the internet for information and entertainment may fall victim as well.  Sometimes boredom clouds their thinking causing better judgment to fly out the window.  There is also a level of excitement and accomplishment in making an independent decision.  Scammers rely on this.  The longer con artists have their attention, the more apt they will fall into the trap.

Phone calls and door-to-door salesmen can be a welcome distraction to those who don’t have as much opportunity for social interaction.  Your loved one may enjoy the attention they’re getting from this person, happily dragging out the conversation.  Now that they’ve taken this person’s time plus their own, they’re more apt to be agreeable to buying something or making a donation to a “good cause.”

Can you identify other reasons the person you’re caring for may fall victim to a scam?  Would he/she be willing to tell you about it, if it happened?

What Can be Done to Protect Them from Scams?

Talk openly about the possibilities with them.  Give examples of innocent people who have been scammed, and voice your specific concerns with them.

Explain that it’s okay to hang up the phone or shut the door on unsolicited callers. Try a role playing exercise with them so they have practice.

Do not show anger, or shame them, if they do become a victim.  This will only discourage them from confiding to you in the future.

Add their phone number to the national Do Not Call list.

Place a No Soliciting sign at the front door.

Make a point to have daily conversations with them about their day.  Ask specific questions about phone calls, people coming to the door, or internet sites they visited.

Be alert to unexpected deliveries or services.

Monitor their credit card statements and/or bank account.

Do not allow home health aides to have access to your family member’s  credit cards or bank account.  Make it clear to them that they must notify you if they need cash for a purchase, and not to be asking your loved one for it.

Report suspected scams and fraud attempts to the authorities immediately.

Visit the post “Safety: It’s More than You Think” to learn more about the various aspects of maintaining a safe environment.

Safety: It’s More Than You Think


Safety, as a topic, is much broader than you might think.  If you’re like me, safety concerns bring to mind things like tripping hazards, falls, burns, cuts, choking, etc.  The definition below explains how it encompasses so much more.

  • “…the condition of being protected against physical, social, spiritual, financial, political, emotional, occupational, psychological, educational or other types or consequences of failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or any other event which could be considered non-desirable. Safety can also be defined to be the control of recognized hazards to achieve an acceptable level of risk. This can take the form of being protected from the event or from exposure to something that causes health or economical losses…”                ~Wikipedia  

    How can we possibly protect our family member from all these dangers?  It’s a monumental task, but there are steps we can take to reduce the risks:

    1.  Educate ourselves about the various types of threats 

    Dangers can come into our lives in many ways:  mail, phone, door, internet, on the street, sales people, strangers, evangelists, and even family and friends.  We don’t want to be overly fearful, but recognizing the possibilities can be key to identifying and resolving the issues.

    2.  Learn to recognize the signs 

    We should be alert to signals such as: changes in attitude, behavior, billing statements, bank balances, physical appearance, mental state, and disappearance of valuables.

    3.  Know what action to take 

    You are not alone.  Enlist the aid of others; there’s strength in numbers.   Learn who to notify in authority, what agencies can help, and what immediate actions may be necessary.


    We’ll tackle these issues in depth with the following topics of upcoming posts:

  • Home Safety
    • In and around their residence
  • Abuse
    • Physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, psychological
  • Health Fraud
    • Medications, false billings, false diagnoses
  • Scams
    • Internet, door to door, phone
  • Neglect
    • Basic needs, special accommodations
  • Financial Exploitation
    • Identity theft, credit card abuse, banking

and more…

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