Senior Environmental Safety

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. Use this checklist to spot possible safety problems which may be present in your home. Keep this checklist as a reminder of safe practices, and use it periodically to re-check your home. This checklist is organized by areas in the home. However, there are some potential hazards that need to be checked in more than just one area of your home.

Senior Safe Environment Survey

An easy to take assessment of the environment of a senior for safety.
  • Check All Chords

    Cords stretched across walkways may cause someone to trip.
    Furniture resting on cords can damage them, creating fire and shock hazards. Electric cords which run under carpeting may cause a fire.
    Nails and staples can damage cords, presenting fire and shock hazards.
    Damaged cords may cause a shock or fire.
    Overloaded extension cords may cause fires. Standard 18-gauge extension cords can carry 1,250 watts.
  • CHECK ELECTRICAL OUTLETS AND SWITCHES

    Unusually warm or hot outlets or switches may indicate that an unsafe wiring condition exists.
    Exposed wiring presents a shock hazard.
  • CHECK SPACE HEATERS

    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.
    Heaters can cause fires or serious burns if they cause you to trip or if they are knocked over.
    Unvented heaters should be used with the room door open or a window slightly open to provide ventilation. The correct fuel, as recommended by the manufacturer, should always be used. Vented heaters should have proper venting, and the venting system should be checked frequently. Improper venting is the most frequent cause of carbon monoxide poisoning, and older consumers are at particular risk.
    Woodburning stoves should be installed by a qualified person, according to local building codes.
  • CHECK ALL RUGS, RUNNERS AND MATS

    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.
  • AIR QUALITY DETECTORS AND NOTIFICATIONS

    At least one smoke detector should be placed on every floor of the home, should have good batteries, and should notify residents and others that the batteries need replacing.
    Automatic notification of others when smoke detectors detect smoke ensures that sleeping seniors are safe.
  • EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

    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.
    In case of emergencies, it is critical to have prescriptions being taken easily available. Senior falls and drug reactions are a major risk area.
    In cases of emergency there is very little time to act. Since you may not have much time to get out and there may be a lot of confusion, it is important that everyone knows what to do and has practiced it.
  • KITCHEN

    In the kitchen, check the range area, all electrical cords, lighting, the stool, all throw rugs and mats, and the telephone area.
    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.
    The CPSC estimates that 70% of all people who die from clothing fires are over 65 years of age. Long sleeves are more likely to catch fire than are short sleeves. Long sleeves are also more apt to catch on pot handles, overturning pots and pans and causing scalds.
    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.
    Low lighting and glare can contribute to burns and cuts.
    Standing on chairs, boxes or other makeshift items to reach high shelves can result in falls. The CPSC estimates that in 1982, 1,500 people over 65 were treated in hospital emergency rooms when they fell from chairs on which they were standing.
    Avoid using stools and standing on anything that require balance where you might get injured.
    Easy grip utensils can help avoid injuries due to slipping such as cuts and bruises.
    Make opening and closing doors easier.
    Avoid scalding the thin skin of seniors.
  • LIVING/FAMILY ROOM

    A clogged chimney can cause a poorly-burning fire to result in poisonous fumes and smoke coming back into the house.
    Burning wood can cause a build up of creosote inside the chimney. This tar-like material can ignite and result in a serious chimney fire.
    Seniors have a hard time sitting down and getting up from low chairs and couches.
    Seniors have a hard time bending over and getting up. Make their life easier by providing access to outlets without discomfort.
    A clutter free environment lowers the risk of tripping.
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