Family Caregiver Home Safety Guide
This helpful family caregiver home safety guide is designed to assist family caregivers with making a safe secure living environment for their aging in place loved one. By following our home safety checklist family caregivers can make meaningful improvements to the home to prevent a fall and make activities for daily living easier. Preventing a fall is crucial for seniors to maintain good health and able to continue to age in place. Falls are the leading cause of hospitalizations for older adults and many of them are preventable.
Fall Statistics for Older Adults
- Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
- Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
- Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
National Council on Aging Fall Prevention Facts
Every home is different and consulting with an aging in place professional through Push Button Care may be helpful if you still have questions about making the right choices for home safety for older adults.
Is the room cluttered with clothing, bags, boxes, loose paper or other items? Is there too much furniture for the space making it difficult to move around?
- Now is a time to work with your senior and clean out filled closets and drawers of items he or she no longer wears or uses. For other items, build or buy shelving or rubber tubs for closets to store sweaters, blankets or shoes that may not be used during that season.
Do rugs or carpets create a tripping hazard? Is the carpet torn?
- Remove throw rugs or use double-sided tape or a rug pad to secure the rug to the floor. For small tears, little glue or carpet staples can fix the problem. Check for any bumps in the carpet or uneven areas on wood floors that could be a tripping hazard.
Is the bed at the proper height?
- A bed is considered very low when if the knees are above the hips when sitting on the bed. Adjust the height of the frame or install risers. A bed is too tall when feet do not touch the floor when sitting on the edge. Remove frame or use a lower profile mattress or box springs.
Is there a phone in the bedroom?
- Cordless phones can come with multiple handsets, make sure one is installed on the bed night stand. An alternative is too suggest an emergency alert system. Contact a Push Button Care representative to learn more about emergency solutions for seniors. A mobile wearable pendant from Push Button Care delivers immediate access to a support call center to assist with contacting a family member, caregiver, or when needed emergency services.
Is there proper lighting?
- Nightlights are a good option for dark rooms at night. If the senior likes to read in the bedroom at night or turns on the light in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, make sure the bulb wattage is high enough (within allowable limits) to properly illuminate the room. Rope lighting is another good option for hallways that connect the bathroom and bedroom.
Do tangled electrical cords obstruct pathways?
- Use extension cords to run electrical cords behind furnishings. Rearrange furniture that must be plugged in to areas near an outlet. Consider a power strip where several cords can be plugged into one long power source.
Does the furniture provide proper support, if needed?
- Make sure bedroom chairs are the proper height, so the senior’s feet touch the floor. Chairs should have sturdy legs and arms.
Is the floor slippery? Is there a lack of bath mats?
- Add a rubber mat or adhesive non-stick decals to the bottom of a tub. Check online or at a bathroom or discount store to find what you need.
Are grab bars available near the tub, shower and toilet?
- Loose towel and curtain rods could be a sign that an older adult is grabbing on to these for support. Adding grab bars near shower/tub units and the toilet can help prevent falls and other accidents.
Is the bathtub too high?
- If the bathtub is too high, such as a claw foot tub or antique tub, add a tub transfer bench. Check online or at a medical supply store for various options.
Is the toilet the correct height?
- Add a raised toilet seat for stools that are too low. Contact a plumber about installing a lower profile stool if your senior’s toilet is too high.
Is there the potential for bath water to be too hot?
- Set the water thermostat to 120 degrees F so the water in the shower and sink faucet does not exceed dangerous or uncomfortable levels. Another good idea is to make sure the hot- and cold-water faucets are clearly labeled. Painting parts of them red or blue will help distinguish them.
Are medications stored properly: not too high or too low for the senior to reach?
- Make sure medications are stored in cabinets that are easy to reach. If the cabinet is too high, an older adult might have problems reaching into it. If it is too low, the senior could have trouble bending down to find the medication. Consider a medication organizer for pills that can be set on a countertop or shelf
Are mobility and joint problems making it difficult for the senior to reach into overhead cabinets, comb his hair or lift her leg to get into a bathtub?
- Perhaps your senior could use assistance at home if the effects of aging are making personal care difficult. A non-medical in-home care company such as Home instead Senior Care® may provide the support to keep an older adult independent for as long as possible.
Is there too much clutter and not enough space to move around furniture?
- Organization is the key to preventing too much clutter. It might be a good time to work with your senior to downsize and eliminate bigger pieces of furniture. Add shelving.
Is furniture unstable?
- Sit in chairs to see if arms or legs are wobbly. Try gluing legs or arm rests. Or, if more extensive repairs are needed, locate a furniture repair service representative. If the chair is too low, add a cushion or pillow on the seat to raise the height.
Can the senior reach the light switch to turn it off or on?
- Add a motion detection light or alternatively a “clapper” light switch to control lamps or check out other remote control switching options. Sometimes, rearranging furniture can allow quick access to wall switch or lamps. Using motion detection lights that plug into hallway light sockets can make it easy to illuminate a dark hallway with the light switch on the opposite end.
Is there adequate lighting?
- Increase wattage to allowable limits in lamps and lights. Add additional lamps, or contact an electrician about installing overhead lights.
Do throw rugs and electrical cords pose a tripping hazard?
- Remove throw rugs. If carpet is necessary, installing low-pile rug can be better than shag. Having carpet stretched or removed can eliminate bumps.
Is the floor uneven or is carpet torn?
- For small tears, a little glue or carpet staples can fix the problem. For uneven floors, consult a contractor or your local home improvement store.
Is the room temperature too hot or cold?
- Install lock-in switches on thermostats to control the temperature and help prevent furnace fires.
Does glare from the windows make it difficult for a senior to see?
- Check out heat-control window film, thermal curtains or solar shades. Visit home improvement and window covering businesses to learn more.
Do the conditions of aging make it difficult for a senior to get out of a chair?
- Make sure the chair is sturdy and the proper height with arm rests that can help support the senior. Remember, a caregiver/companion can help serve as a second set of eyes for a senior at home.
Is there a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector in place?
- Install new smoke detector batteries once a year. Pick a date, like a birthday or the change to daylight-savings time, and make sure all of the smoke detector batteries in the home are replaced. The National Fire Protection Association recommends replacing carbon monoxide batteries and alarms according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Is there adequate light at night?
- Night lights are an ideal solution for dark hallways. Search online to find a variety of lights, including LED options that are just right for an older adult. Rope lighting is another good option for hallways that connect the bathroom and bedroom.
Does the senior have trouble finding the bathroom at night?
- Some seniors, particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, may become confused at night and have difficulty getting to the bathroom. Nightlights can help. So, too, can a caregiver companion who would be available 24/7 to ensure that a senior is safe.
Are cabinets too high or low?
- Move items to the shelves closest to the counter that are the easiest for a senior to reach. Install hooks in the walls for pots and pans a senior frequently uses.
Is there clutter on countertops or throughout the kitchen? Are pathways obstructed?
- Using a “Lazy Susan” can help organize items on a countertop. Move a kitchen table closer to counter for additional work space. Or use an island for added workspace.
Is there adequate light for cooking?
- Increase light wattage to allowable levels. Many options exist for under-counter lighting including battery-operated pucks. Or, contact an electrician for under-counter or overhead lighting.
Are dangerous chemicals and cleaning materials secure?
- Household kitchen cleaning and other supplies could pose a danger to older adults, particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. Consider higher storage or locked cabinets.
Is the floor slippery?
- Encourage your older adult to clean up spills immediately and never walk on a wet floor. Suggest comfortable shoes that fit well or socks with a non-skid sole. Change flooring to one with a less slippery surface.
Is there spoiled food in the refrigerator?
- The dangers of eating outdated or spoiled food can be many including food poisoning. If an older adult is unable to do so, help him or her go through a refrigerator weekly and look at the dates on food items such as meat, eggs and milk. Toss unsafe items.
Is emergency contact information within easy access?
- A refrigerator is a good place for emergency contact information. So is a senior’s wallet, billfold or purse.
Is the senior at risk of harming herself with a sharp utensil or by causing a fire?
- Make sure the senior’s kitchen has a working fire extinguisher. If you are concerned about an older adult’s safety, remove all dangerous utensils from the kitchen.
Is there adequate light on basement stairways?
- Increase wattage to allowable limits, and add overhead and wall lighting, if necessary.
Are there sturdy handrails for the stairway?
- Add at least one railing the entire length of the wall. Ideally, there should be a railing on both sides. Consult with a credible contractor to make sure he – or you – install a railing that is safe and up to code.
Are the steps too steep or slippery?
- Add adhesive stair treads or a carpet runner. Check with department, carpet or home improvement stores.
Does the last step blend in with the floor?
- Paint the bottom step a different color to better distinguish the last step from the basement floor.
Are the pathways cluttered?
- If stairs become a dumping ground for items such as shoes, remove and organize in a closet or elsewhere in the basement.
Is laundry detergent in bottles or boxes too heavy to lift?
- Divide laundry detergents into smaller containers or bottles.
Has detergent spilled on the laundry room floor?
- Encourage seniors to immediately clean up spills and wear shoes or socks with non-skid soles in the laundry room.
Does the senior have to carry baskets of laundry up and down stairs?
- If possible, move laundry to the main living area. Or, consider hiring a caregiver companion, who can assist with many of those household tasks that seniors could be struggling to do.
Do the stairs into the garage have secure railings?
- Like basements and entryways, steps leading out of a garage should have at least one sturdy railing, ideally two.
Is trash piling up?
- Make sure enough trash containers are available to hold trash between times when collection services pick up. Keep trash just outside the garage to avoid attracting bugs and mice. Make sure your senior has help moving trash to the curb if needed.
Are power tools and lawn chemicals secure?
- Power tools and toxic lawn chemicals could be lethal for some older adults, particularly those with dementia, as they could become confused about how to safely use them. If you are concerned, have those items removed from the garage. Or, if a senior can still help, lock up the items until he can participate with the assistance of a family member or friend.
Is the garage secure?
- Many older adults fear break-ins, and this can be a legitimate concern. Remind your senior to always keep the garage door down. And, if the garage has a separate door from the outside, keep that locked as well.
ENRTYWAY / FRONT YARD
Do steps have proper handrails?
- Stabilize unsteady railings. If they are missing, install at least one and preferably two.
Are steps too steep, cracked or uneven?
- Proper handrails are a must where stairs are steep. Have damaged or broken steps and sidewalk repaired. Consider planning out an alternate route to and from the home for your senior. Contact your local city or county government about repairing a sidewalk or the end of a driveway.
- Make sure your senior has someone to scoop his or her walk, or maintain the yard. Work out an arrangement with a neighbor or snow removal/ yard service. Use snow melt when necessary
Is there adequate lighting at night?
- Add an outdoor light if one is not available. Motion-activated lights may provide an older adult much comfort and security
Is your senior loved one at risk of wandering?
- Install barriers and fences in the yard to help ensure a senior doesn’t wander. Place larger flower pots near small openings to help re-direct. Create inviting areas including benches where an older adult can sit and enjoy nature.
Can your senior hear the doorbell?
- Smart doorbells like the Ring or Google Nest provide older adults additional security with the ability to see video of the person at the door and communicate without having to go to the door unless needed. Alternatively there are devices that enables a ringing doorbell to trigger a flashing light which lets your loved one know if someone is at the door.