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People aged 65 and older are especially vulnerable to falls and fires in their home. Use the checklist shown below to check your home for hazards.
- Improve yourself. You should exercise regularly to build
strength and improve your balance and coordination.
Improving your physical strength and stamina will help you avoid accidents, and help you better cope with one should it occur. Be sure to check with your physician before starting a new exercise program.
- Don't rush. Take your time answering the telephone or
doorbell, so you won't be rushed or distracted, which
increases your chances of falling. Make sure you get your
balance when you stand up before you start to walk.
- All clear? Make sure that there aren't any tripping
hazards, such as papers, books, electrical cords or
shoes on your floors in walking areas or stairways that
could cause falls.
- Look out! Have your eyes checked once a year. Poor
vision can cause a fall.
- Light the way. Have night light along walkways and paths
(such as from the bedroom to the bathroom)
regularly use at night. Also, turn on the lights in the stairway
when using the stairs.
If needed, have a light switch
installed at both the top and the bottom of the stairs.
Never climb or descend
stairs in the dark. Also, make sure
each room in the house has a light switch which can be reached from the doorway.
- Avoid slip-ups. Use nonskid mats in bathtubs and
showers. Install grab-bars in tubs, showers and in
bathrooms near the toilet. Never use towel racks or
shower rods for support.
- Wipe up spilled liquids right away. Even a few drops
of grease or a spilled liquid can make your floors slippery.
- Throw out the throw rugs. All rugs should have a
rubber, nonskid backing. Carpets and rugs should not
be wrinkled, puckered, folded or torn. If they are, they
are trip hazards! Have them repaired or replaced.
- Use the handrails. There should be sturdy, easy-
to-grip handrails on both sides of stairs. If they don't exist,
or if there is only one, have handrails installed so that both
sides offer a secure grip. If railings are loose, have them
secured firmly to the walls.
- Put your best foot forward. Avoid wearing high heels,
loose shoes or slippers. Instead, wear well-fitted, sturdy,
low-heeled shoes with non-slip soles. Avoid wearing thick-
soled athletic shoes, or walking about in your stocking feet.
- Do you take medication? Have your doctor or
pharmacist review all of your medications and over-the-
counter drugs at least once a year. Some medications
can affect your balance and coordination.
- If you smoke, use a large, deep ashtray. Also, wet
down cigarettes, cigars and ashes before emptying
ashtrays into a trash can. Never smoke when you are
drowsy, in bed or lying down.
- Leave adequate space around space heaters.
They should be kept at least 3 feet away from anything
that can burn, including people and pets. Unplug heaters
when you shut them off, go to bed, or leave your house.
- Be smart in the kitchen. Wear tight-fitting, rolled-up
or short sleeves when cooking. Use oven mitts or pot
holders to handle hot pots and pans. Never leave
food that is cooking unattended. If a pan of food
catches fire, slide a lid over it and turn off the burner.
Don't cook if you are drowsy from alcohol or medication.
- Remember to Stop, Drop and Roll! If your clothing
catches on fire, STOP, don't run. DROP gently to the
ground and cover your face with your hands. Roll over
and over to smother the flames. If you can't do this,
smother the flames with a towel or blanket. Immerse
burns in cool water for 10 to 15 minutes. If the burns
are severe, get medical help immediately.
- Get smoke alarms, and keep their batteries fresh.
Have smoke alarms installed outside all sleeping areas
and on each level of your home. Test each alarm once a
month by pushing the test button. Make sure that everyone
in your home can hear the alarms. If a person in your home
is hearing-impaired, get visual (flashing) alarms as well as
audio (sound) alarms installed.
- Plan and practice escape routes. Know two ways out
of every room in your home. Make sure windows and doors
open easily, and get emergency escape ladders if
necessary. If your home catches on fire, get out and stay
- Know your local emergency telephone number.
It may be 911 or the fire department's telephone number. Once you have escaped from a fire, call the fire
department from a neighbor's telephone or a cell phone.
- Plan your escape to fit your abilities. Have a telephone
in your bedroom and keep the emergency telephone
number near it in case you are trapped by a fire.