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Prevention, Self-Care, and Safety : Older Adults : Home and Personal Safety

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Prevent Accidents in Your Home

Many people enjoy the sanctuary their home provides from the hustle and bustle of the world. This makes accidents in the home such as falls, fire, poisoning and drowning even more unsettling. The first and most important rule for preventing accidents is to use common sense.  Many in-home accidents occur because people are in a hurry, take shortcuts or do things that they know are not safe.

You can reduce the risk of injury in your home. Doing so may take some time and money, but it will be well worth the effort.

Fire

  • Put smoke alarms on every floor of your home, including the basement. Be sure each one has a label from a testing lab, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Test the batteries every month, and replace them in the spring and in the fall. Smoke detectors that plug into house current are also available and do not require batteries.

  • Plan an escape route in case of fire, and practice it twice a year. You may need escape ladders for upper floors. Be sure that everyone knows to get down on the floor and crawl out of a smoke-filled room.

  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.

  • When possible, use appliances that turn off automatically.

  • Remain in the kitchen while cooking food.

  • Never smoke in bed or while resting.

  • Always be sure that smoking materials, such as matches and cigarette butts, are completely extinguished before you throw them out.

  • Have your furnace and chimney inspected every year.

  • Put a safety screen in front of every fireplace.

  • Throw away oily rags and other combustible materials.

  • Check electrical cords regularly for cuts, cracking and other damage.

  • Never put a space heater near curtains or furniture.

  • Don't cover light bulbs with anything flammable.

  • Keep flammable materials, such as towels, away from stovetops.

Falls

  • If you wax your floors, use nonskid wax.

  • Use a sturdy stool or ladder with nonslip feet to reach high places.

  • Put grab bars and non-slip mats or strips in the bathtub or shower.

  • Consider getting rid of loose throw rugs.

  • Repair tears in carpeting.

  • Put nightlights in bedrooms and hallways.

  • Have a light within reach of your bed.

  • Wear shoes with nonslip soles.

  • Install window guards if you have young children in your home.

  • Make sure that stair handrails are secure.

  • Keep stairs free of clutter.

Poisoning

  • Keep household cleaners, medicine and other chemicals out of children's reach and away from food.

  • Buy medicine and cleaners with child-resistant caps.

  • Avoid taking medicine in front of children, and never refer to medicine as candy.

  • Use volatile household chemicals only in well-ventilated areas.

  • Know which cleaning products can't be combined. Mixing certain chemicals together can create dangerous gases.

  • Keep space heaters, furnaces and natural gas clothes dryers clean and working properly.

  • Put a carbon monoxide detector outside bedrooms.

Drowning

  • Learn to swim.

  • Learn CPR.

  • Don't swim alone or let children swim unsupervised.

  • If you are diving or jumping, be sure the water is at least nine feet deep.

  • Never drink alcohol before or during water recreation.

  • Don't chew gum or eat while in the water.

  • Have a telephone near the pool.

  • Teach your children that they should never swim alone.

  • Never leave children alone while they are in a pool or a bathtub.

  • Keep children younger than three away from buckets that contain liquid. Empty buckets when you are finished with them.

  • If you have a pool, put a fence around all four sides of it. Be sure that it has a self-closing and self-latching gate. The enclosure should be locked when the area is empty.