As we age we often take things for granted. We’ve lived in our homes for many years and have become accustomed to the way things are but are we alert to changes that may impact our safety in our homes? Many of the people I work with have difficulty with balance. Whether caused by an ear infection or a more chronic condition a real result of balance issues is fall risks. Knowing that you have trouble with falls is the first step to protecting yourself from serious injury. Let’s take a walk around the house and see how safe is home really!

Let’s walk through a typical day. It’s morning and in your half asleep daze you sit up in bed, swinging your legs out to step over the dog. You’ve gotten up this way for years so you don’t even think about it as you stand up. But the dog moves, you lose your footing and fall. This happened to a friend of mine. She got a nasty bump on her head from the night stand. What could you do differently?

Several options come to mind in this instance. The easiest would be to keep the dog out of the bedroom but I know many of you will balk at that so let’s try self awareness. Before standing up take your bearings. Be sure you are ready to balance yourself. Pet the dog and reassure him that you know he is there. Give the ‘stay’ command then carefully step around, not over, his prone body. Easy steps but they require a conscious effort on your part to be safe.

What else is in the bedroom. That extension cord leading to the fan has always stretched across the doorway. A box with the flap hanging out sits next to the cedar chest. And what’s that sticking out under the dresser? Small things that we see everyday become invisible so create a checklist and look for the things that might cause problems. By the way if there are too many things plugged in to a socket now would be a good time to eliminate some of those plugs. Overloading can cause sparking and fires, especially with older wiring and in older homes.

Wow! We haven’t even left the bedroom yet and already there are ways to improve safety in the home. Well we’re on the way to the bathroom now. Oh! That pesky rug caught on your slipper again. Are you using light way, throw rugs in your hall or bathroom? Be sure the rugs you use are heavy enough to stay in place when you walk. If rugs flip up they are a fall waiting to happen.

I see the hair dryer is plugged in next to the sink. Unplug it now and put it away. Appliances should not be left plugged in and should definitely not be left near water. Electric shock may disorient you or worse. Avoid creating electrical hazards in your home.

Okay let’s get the tooth brush and paste out of the medicine cabinet. Wait! Don’t lean over the sink with the cabinet door open. You may hit your head. Close that door. Now you are ready to brush your teeth safely.
Now for the shower. Let’s just check things out. Do you have a tub? Are there hand rails to help balance getting in and out of the tub? Is the surface grippy or slick? Many falls are caused by slipping on wet surfaces. Outside of the tub is there a mat or a smooth floor that may become slippery when wet? Be sure your towel is within reach and that you have everything you need before you get in the shower. And don’t worry about the phone. Who ever it is will leave a message or call back after you have completed your shower.

Finally it is time for breakfast. Let’s see the coffee pot is ready, just have to push the button. You turn on the front burner to get some bacon going. Maybe you decide to warm a muffin in the microwave. Is your microwave above the stove? Burns and fires are caused by clothing and hands getting too close to hot burners. Be aware of your proximity to the stove and avoid placing your hand on the surface as you reach above for the microwave. And don’t set plastic plates on the surface of your cook top. It is tempting to say, ‘but the burners not on’. Many people forget what burner was on last. An electric cook top will hold heat well after the element is turned off. Melting plastic on the surface is one problem that may occur. Another more serious problem is the release of gasses from melting plastic.

Think about what you will prepare in the kitchen and get the things you need out before you heat the burner. Slower reflexes may mean a decrease in your ability to grab that last thing from the fridge while watching the bacon and stopping the microwave on time. Having to hurry creates unsafe situations. Set things out and plan your process to take full advantage of the time you have.

It’s time to relax now. As you go to your favorite chair to watch TV or read the morning paper remember that clutter may cause safety issue also. Piles of papers and electrical appliances may become fire hazards or just dust collectors impacting breathing.

Put on your Safety Inspector Hat and walk through your house taking notes. Then carefully change things to make sure your home is truly your Safe Haven!

Check list –
Walk through your home and check for:
Tripping / Fall Hazards
• Cords across the floor
• Loose floppy rugs
• Boxes and other low objects sticking out from corners or under furniture

Electrical Hazards
• Too many plugs in a socket
• Appliances left plugged in when not in use
• Electrical appliances plugged in near sinks and other water sources (don’t forget the dog dish has water)

Bath and Shower
• Make sure the tub or shower has a grippy surface
• Use a mat that is heavy enough to stay in place
• Check that handrails are securely attached for support
• Make sure the things you need are within easy reach

• Do not put plastic on your cook top surface
• Avoid placing hands on hot burners
• Do not wear loose clothing that may catch fire while cooking
• Get everything you need ready before you begin to cook

More safety tips and checklists are available at:

Safety Checklist

Safe Children in Your Home

Household Safety Checklist

Famous Fallers

Prevent Fires in Your Home

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Allison has provided services to adults, helping them reach their dreams and goals for over thirty years. She has monitored occupational health and safety in the workplace and has assisted many individuals in workplace, school and home modification and accommodation to improve access.

Currently Dr. Allison is working with older adults and their adult children to help them meet life transitions with joyful anticipation. Learn more about her company Transitioning Adults plus® at