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Home Safety for the ElderlyEach year, according to estimates by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), nearly 1 million people over age 65 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with the products they live with and use every day. The death rate from accidental injuries in the home is approximately three times greater for older people than for the younger population. Specifically, there are 60 deaths per 100,000 persons 65 and older, while there are 20 deaths per 100,000 persons under 65. Slips and falls are the main cause of injury for older people in the home. The CPSC recommends the use of grab-bars and non-slip mats in the bathtub, handrails on both sides of the stairs, and slip-resistant carpets and rugs. Burns occur from hot tap water and from open flame. The CPSC recommends that consumers turn down the temperature of their water heater to 48 degrees Celsius to help prevent burns. The CPSC also recommends the installation and maintenance of at least one smoke detector on every floor of the home Home Safety Checklist for Older Consumers The CPSC believes that many of injuries to elderly persons in their homes result from hazards that are easy to overlook, but also easy to fix. By spotting these hazards and taking some simple steps to correct them, many injuries might be prevented.  

In all areas of your home, check all electrical and telephone cords; rugs, runners and mats; telephone areas; smoke detectors; electrical outlets and switches; light bulbs; space heaters; wood burning stoves; and your emergency exit plan.


  • Cords stretched across walkways may cause someone to trip.
  • Arrange furniture so that outlets are available for lamps and appliances without the use of extension cords.
  • If you must use an extension cord, place it on the floor against a wall where people can not trip over it.
  • Move the phone so that telephone cords will not lie where people walk.


  • Furniture resting on cords can damage them, creating fire and shock hazards. Electric cords which run under carpeting may cause a fire
  • Remove cords from under furniture or carpeting.
  • Replace damaged and frayed cords.

CHECK ALL RUGS, RUNNERS AND MATS                                                                                    

RECOMMENDATION:  The CPSC estimates that in 1982, over 2,500 people 65 and over were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries that resulted from tripping over rugs and runners. Falls are also the most common cause of fatal injury for older people.

  •   Remove rugs and runners that tend to slide.
  •   Apply double-faced adhesive carpet tape or rubber matting to the backs of rugs and runners.
  •   Purchase rugs with slip-resistant backing.
  •   Check rugs and mats periodically to see if backing needs to be replaced.
  •  Place rubber matting under rugs. (Rubber matting that can be cut to size is available.)
  •  Purchase new rugs with slip-resistant backing.

    NOTE: Over time, adhesive on tape can wear away. Rugs with slip- resistant backing also become less effective as they are washed. Periodically, check rugs and mats to see if new tape or backing is needed.

RECOMMENDATION: In case of emergency, telephone numbers for the police, fire department, and the local poison control center, along with a neighbor's number, should be readily available.

  •    Write the numbers in large print and tape them to the phone, or place them near the phone where they can be seen easily.
  • Have at least one telephone located where it would be accessible in the event of an accident which leaves you unable to stand.


RECOMMENDATION: At least one smoke detector should be placed on every floor of your home.

  •    Read the instructions that come with the smoke detector for advice on the best place to install it.
  •    Make sure detectors are placed near bedrooms, either on the ceiling or 6 to 12 inches below the ceiling on the wall.
  •   Locate smoke detectors away from air vents.

RECOMMENDATION: Many fire injuries and deaths in homes are caused by smoke and toxic gases, rather than the fire itself. Smoke detectors provide an early warning and can wake you in the event of a fire.

  •  Purchase a smoke detector if you do not have one.
  • Check and replace batteries and bulbs according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  •  Vacuum the grillwork of your smoke detector periodically.
  •  Replace any smoke detectors which can not be repaired. NOTE: Some fire departments or local governments will provide assistance in acquiring or installing smoke detectors.


RECOMMENDATION :  Unusually warm or hot outlets or switches may indicate that an unsafe wiring condition exists.

  •     Unplug cords from outlets and do not use the switches.
  •     Have an electrician check the wiring as soon as possible.


Exposed wiring presents a shock hazard.

 ·         Add a cover plate.


RECOMMENDATION: The grounding feature provided by a three-hole receptacle or an adapter for a two-hole receptacle is a safety feature designed to lessen the risk of shock.

  •  Never defeat the grounding feature.
  •  If you do not have a three-hole outlet, use an adapter to connect the heater's three-prong plug. Make sure the adapter, ground wire or tab is attached to the outlet.

RECOMMENDATION: The grounding feature provided by a three-hole receptacle or an adapter for a two-hole receptacle is a safety feature designed to lessen the risk of shock.

  •    Never defeat the grounding feature.
  •    If you do not have a three-hole outlet, use an adapter to connect the heater's three-prong plug. Make sure the adapter, ground wire or tab is attached to the outlet.

In the kitchen, check the range area, all electrical cords, lighting, the stool, all throw rugs and mats, and the telephone area.


RECOMMENDATION: Placing or storing non-cooking equipment, such as potholders, dish towels, and plastic utensils on or near the range may result in fires or burns.

  •  Store flammable and combustible items away from the range and oven.
  •  Remove any towels hanging on oven handles. If towels hang close to a burner, change the location of the towel rack.
  •   If necessary, shorten or remove curtains which could Use ventilation systems or open windows to clear air of vapors and smoke.

RECOMMENDATION: Electrical appliances and power cords can cause shock or electrocution if they come in contact with water. Cords can also be damaged by excess heat.

  •   Move cords and appliances away from sink areas and hot surfaces.
  •   Move appliances closer to wall outlets or to different outlets so you won't need extension cords.
  •   If extension cords must be used, install wiring guides so that cords will not hang near sink, range, or working areas.
  •  Consider adding new outlets for convenience and safety; ask your electrician to install outlets equipped with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to protect against electric shock. A GFCI is a shock-protection device that will detect electrical fault and shut off electricity before serious injury or death occurs.


RECOMMENDATION: Wet, soapy tile and porcelain surfaces are especially slippery and may contribute to falls.

  •  Apply textured strips or appliques on the floors of tubs and showers.
  •  Use non-skid mats in the tub and shower, and on the

RECOMMENDATION: Grab bars can help you get into and out of your tub or shower, and can help prevent falls

  •  Check existing bars for strength and stability, and repair, if necessary.
  •  Attach grab bars, through the tile, to structural supports in the wall, or install bars specifically designed to attach to the sides of the bathtub. If you are not sure how it is done, get someone who is qualified to assist you.

RECOMMENDATION: Water temperature above 48 degrees C can cause tap water burns.  


RECOMMENDATION: If not tightly closed, vapors may escape that may be toxic when inhaled.

  •  Check containers periodically to make sure they are tightly closed.

RECOMMENDATION: Gasoline, kerosene and other flammable liquids should be stored out of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers.

  •     Remove these products from the areas near heat and flame such as heaters, furnaces, water heaters, ranges, and other gas appliances.



For all stairways, check lighting, handrails, and the condition of the steps and coverings.  


RECOMMENDATION: Stairs should be lighted so that each step, particularly the step edges, can be clearly seen while going up and down stairs. The lighting should not produce glare or shadows along the stairway.

RECOMMENDATION: Even if you are very familiar with the stairs, lighting is an important factor in preventing falls. You should be able to turn on the lights before you use the stairway from either end.

RECOMMENDATION: Worn treads and worn and loose carpeting can lead to insecure footing, resulting in slips and falls.

  •   Try to avoid wearing only socks or smooth-soled shoes or slippers when using stairs.
  •    Make certain the carpet is firmly attached to the steps all along the stairs.

  RECOMMENDATION: Even a small difference in step surfaces or riser heights can lead to falls.

  •   Mark any steps which are especially narrow or have risers that are higher or lower than the others. Be especially careful of these steps when using the stairs.

  RECOMMENDATION: People can trip over objects left on stairs, particularly in the event of an emergency or fire.

  •    Remove all objects from the stairway.
Home Health Care Newsletters are provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Home Health Care is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the Home Health Care website. Home Health Care is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. Always consult your own physician if you're in any way concerned about your health.


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