Learning About How to Make a Home Safe

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Making the home safe for a person in your care: Overview

You can help protect the person in your care by making the home safe. Here are some general tips for how to lower the chance of getting injured in the home.

  • Pad sharp corners on furniture and counter tops.
  • Keep objects that are used often within easy reach.
  • Install handrails around the toilet and in the shower. Use a tub mat to prevent slipping.
  • Use a shower chair or bath bench when the person bathes.
  • Provide good lighting inside and outside the home. Put night-lights in bedrooms, hallways, and bathrooms. Have light at the top and bottom of stairways.
  • Have a first aid kit.

It is also important to be aware of safe temperatures in the home. When helping someone bathe, use the back of your hand to test the water to make sure it's not too hot. Lower the temperature setting in the hot water heater to 120°F or lower to avoid burns. And make sure other liquids (such as coffee, tea, or soup) are not too hot.

How can you protect from fire and carbon monoxide?

Home safety alarms are very important. A smoke alarm can detect small amounts of smoke. This can allow time to escape from a fire. And a carbon monoxide alarm can let people know about this deadly gas before it starts to make them sick.

  • Put smoke alarms:
    • On each level of the home, in the hallway outside sleeping areas, and inside each bedroom.
    • On the ceiling or high up on a wall. This is where smoke goes first. Avoid places near stoves, doors, windows, or air ducts.
  • Put a carbon monoxide alarm in the hallway outside of the bedrooms in each sleeping area of the house. The alarm should be placed high on the wall. Make sure that the alarm can't be covered up by furniture or drapes.
  • Test alarms regularly by pressing the test button.
  • Replace non-lithium batteries in alarms twice a year.
  • Have a plan for getting out of the home if there is a fire. Practice by having a fire drill.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
  • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.

What can you do to prevent falls?

You can help prevent falls by keeping rooms uncluttered, with clear walkways around furniture. Keep electrical cords off the floor, and remove throw rugs to prevent tripping.

If there are steps in the home, make sure they all have handrails, and always use the handrails. Don't leave items on the steps, and be sure to fix any that are loose, broken, or uneven.

How can you increase safety for people with dementia?

If you are caring for someone who has dementia, you may need to make some extra changes to create a safe home. People with dementia have a loss of mental skills, such as memory, problem solving, and learning. So things that might not have been a danger to them before can cause safety problems now.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Don't move furniture around. The person may become confused.
  • Use locks on doors and cupboards. Lock up knives, scissors, medicines, cleaning supplies, and other dangerous items.
  • Use hidden switches or controls for the stove, thermostat, water heater, and other appliances.
  • If your loved one is still cooking, think about whether that is safe. It may be okay with some help, depending on your loved one's condition. But for people who have memory or thinking problems, it's best to avoid any activities that might not be safe.
  • If the person tends to wander or to try to leave the home, install motion-sensor lights on all doors and windows.
  • Have emergency numbers in a central area near a phone. Include 911 and numbers for the doctor and family members.
  • Get medical alert jewelry for the person so you can be contacted if they wander away. If possible, provide a safe place for wandering, such as an enclosed yard or garden.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.