Tips for Staying At Home…SAFELY

Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Safety Concerns |

This tipsheet focuses on safety measures you can take to:

1) Be prepared in case of a medical emergency at home.
2) Avoid or minimize the chances of a fall 

For older persons living alone, a regular “check-in” system is our first line of defense.  Friends and neighbours who see or call each other daily are often the first to know if something is amiss.

If you don’t answer the phone according to a normal schedule, who can look in on you (or your parent)? Make arrangements with a neighbor or close-by friend. Alternately, have a professional caregiver or paid companion check in. This friend, neighbor, or companion should also have contact details for one or more family members. Will there be set of keys left with someone (or at least at a known location) in case of serious concern?

Many frail elderly persons use an emergency response system, connected to a live phone answering system, and usually worn around the wrist or as a pendant. Assuming the user is capable of triggering a call, this can be an extra safety precaution.

Falls are one of the greatest risks for an older person; in fact, more than 40% of nursing home admissions can be traced back to a fall or complications from a fall.

Even if the fall produces no serious physical consequences, the person who falls often becomes increasingly fearful and loses some confidence that they can move about safely. That can lead to a downward spiral of less activity, loss of strength, and increased vulnerability to further falls. 

That’s why a “safety audit” of all rooms in the house is a prudent idea. Following are some safety aids to evaluate:


  • Use grab bars, rubber mats, “telephone” shower heads, shower chairs/benches, raised seats to minimize slips and falls in the bathroom.


  • Increase use of small appliances rather than stovetop and oven
  • Buy small appliances with automatic shut-off features
  • Place items within easy reach, avoid lifting/carrying heavy dishes

All rooms:

  • Reduce clutter, minimize objects on floor
  • Increase lighting, including night lights
  • Tidy up loose cords and wires
  • Re-assess furniture, e.g. chairs too low, sharp edges, wobbly items
  • Remove throw rugs, secure carpet edges.
  • Can you easily see flooring transitions (e.g, tile to carpet)?


  • Repair cracked sidewalks
  • Install handrails on stairs and steps, or install a ramp
  • Trim shrubbery and trees along pathways
  • Ensure adequate lighting by doorways and along walkways


  • Plan how to reduce/minimize stair use
  • Install hand rails on both sides of staircases at elbow height
  • Always have one hand free to grasp handrails
  • Secure or remove carpet on treads of stairs
  • Increase lighting in stairways
  • Remove any rugs at the top/bottom of stairs

General Safety:

  • Wear properly fitting shoes/slippers with non-slip sole
  • Remove reading glasses when walking, especially up/down stairs
  • Install a telephone extension in the bedroom, kitchen, and in or near the bathroom
  • Never rush to answer the door or phone
  • Understand side-effects of alcohol and medications, such as dizziness

For more ideas, visit this webpage and review items in the right-hand column:



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