Caregivers worry 24/7 about patient safety, with falls, burns and poisonings often topping the list of concerns. Since preventing potential accidents in the home should be top-of-mind, caregivers can take advantage of this checklist of 10 areas that will help to keep loved ones as safe as possible:
- Emergency phone numbers — Always keep a list of emergency numbers by each phone. Make sure the numbers are easy to read and in large print, and include 911, Poison Control 1-800-222-1222, friends or neighbors to call in case of emergency and the primary care physician’s office.
- Hazards — Place large DO NOT TOUCH signs and labels on potentially dangerous item, such as heaters or gas stoves. Make sure all poisons, cleaning products and sharp objects are locked up or out of reach.
- Prevent falls – Install non-slip rubber mats in the bathtub and shower and provide non-slip footwear that fits well. Use sticky tape to secure rugs to the floor, and make sure all hallways, stairs, and paths are well lit and clear of objects.
- Smoke/carbon monoxide — Install dual smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in every bedroom, test them regularly and replace the batteries twice a year.
- Fire safety — Make sure there is a functional fire extinguisher in the bedroom and kitchen. Replace appliances that have fraying or damaged electrical cords, and keep heaters at least three feet from curtains, bedding, or furniture.
- Medical Emergency Response — Provide a Medical Emergency Response System, so that your loved one call for help by pushing a button.
- Safety Proof — Install key or combination locks on rooms and other storage places containing potentially dangerous items. Use childproof doorknob covers or cabinet locks and cover electrical outlets.
- Bathroom Safety — Install grab bars in bathrooms and showers. Many grab bars are designed to also serve as towel bars, toilet paper holders and in-shower shelves.
- Remote alerts — Consider using seat cushions, floor mats and bed pads that are wired to alert you when your loved one gets up or leaves a room. You might also want to install a motion-activated video monitor.
- Outside – Light pathways and steps and keep walkways and patios clear of fallen leaves and branches, ice and snow. Also, keep an Emergency Disaster Kit available and ready to go in the car, garage or shed.
Being a caregiver is demanding and challenging. By taking a few simple precautions, caregivers can anticipate problems, prevent injuries and avoid trips to the hospital emergency room.
Rhea Go-Coloma, LMSW, Chief Administrative Officer, Hospice of the West