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Quick tips for making your home safer

Outside

  • Ensure that path surfaces and gradients are safe, clear and moss free.
  • Steps are easier to negotiate when walking than a ramp.
  • Indicate or mark changes in levels.
  • Is it easy to get the mail?
  • Keep bushes and branches trimmed back from pathways and doorways.
  • Use appropriate and assistive equipment (e.g. kneeling pads and stools, long reach prunners etc.) and protective clothing (long sleeved tops, trousers, protective hand and arm covers and hip protectors etc.) when gardening.
  • If you drive, keep the access to the garage clear so that you have as clear a view as possible.

Inside

  • Ensure that smoke detectors work. Check them bi-annually when ‘daylight saving’ begins and ends.
  • Store a ‘Life Tube’ in fridge. These store information about your health status and are easily found by paramedics if they are called. (Ask Age Concern about these).
  • Make sure that heaters are safely placed
  • Ensure that curtains and drapes are not near the stove, fire, heater, etc
  • Set the hot water cylinder so that the temperature at the tap is 50-55C.
  • Make sure that extension cords are safely run and that they are not warm to the touch
  • Keep the jug cord clear of the stove elements.
  • Take your electric blanket to an electrician each year to be checked.
  • Don’t overload power points
  • Get a fire extinguisher and know how to use it (ensure it is not too heavy for you to use).
  • Keep floor surface clear of mats, or put down the non-slip variety.
  • Make sure that there is easy access through doorways.
  • Plan escape routes from various points of the house.
  • Lighting should be bright.
  • Consider use of timers on lights and radio (also for safety and security reasons).
  • Keep a night-light or torch at the bedside.
  • Ensure that your medication is safely stored and in a form you can manage e.g. made up into daily /weekly pack (the chemist can arrange).
  • Plan for easy access to a phone/s you can comfortably use, e.g. with large numbers, a portable phone carried in a pouch or several phones strategically placed around the house.
  • You may want to think about getting a 'Medical Alarm'. There are various systems that are available. Check the set up costs, ongoing monitoring costs/plans. Those who are eligible may qualify for assistance with costs under the 'Disability Allowance'
  • Make sure that furniture, chairs and bed is easy to get in and out of.
  • Maintain appliances in good condition.
  • Shift items in the cupboard so that you can easily reach them
  • Get aids in bathroom eg toilet rails, non-slip mats, chairs, raised toilet seat etc if you need them. Contact the Assessment Service to see if you qualify for assistance and avail yourself of their expertise and recommendations as to what best suits your need.
  • Ensure that there is clear access to toilet, bath, shower etc.
  • Use a walking aid if recommended.
  • Have ‘clutter’ regularly removed from the house such as papers, boxes and items that are no longer required.  Such items can be fuel for a fire and giving or throwing them away will also help keep access ways and possible escape routes in emergencies clear.  (See our question below about de-cluttering and downsizing.)

If you purchase assistive equipment talk to your doctor or practice nurse first or get specialist advice such as from an appropriately qualified assessor, Physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist to ensure that you get the right equipment for your needs. Not all equipment suits all people e.g. a walking frame can be suitable for one person (because of their condition/needs) but dangerous for another.

Falling over and hurting yourself is the leading cause of injury-related hospitalisation in people aged 65 years and over, so it makes sense to ensure your home is as risk free as possible.  The ACC website has some great information on falls prevention – and a booklet you can download.  They also have information on preventing injuries.  

Find: Communication & maintenance of your property

Updated: 11 Jun 2024
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