All too often we take the familiar for granted. But then when an incident – especially one that results in an injury – occurs in the home, we recognize that the incident could have been avoided. People of all ages fall and incur bruises or even break bones because of a slip; maybe a wet floor, maybe a loose rug. Maybe the corner of a rug that had become a little curled up and someone trips and falls, and lands against a piece of solid furniture, possibly the corner of a dresser or other piece of hard furniture.
In these notes, we’ll attempt to walk through the typical home pointing out some of the things that might be a hazard.
Coming Back Home And Feeling Secure
You arrive back home and park the car and head into the home; maybe through the front door, through an internal door from the garage, or maybe through a side door, a back door, or even a patio door – and you enter. Did you visualize your journey? Did you notice anything that could have tripped you up, and I mean, literally. If you have children with you, are there any items that you noticed that could possibly cause an incident? How about that hose that wasn’t coiled up? How about gardening tools that were left out, perhaps dropped alongside the walkway or left on the patio, but the fork and the rake that were left with their points facing upward. Bicycles and outdoor toys are also good at being left in places where they can be a hazard.
As you enter the home, what are you seeing ahead of you? What do you have to navigate around? Things on the floor or draped across the floor that someone could trip over? Now, where do we go next? Eeny, meeny, miny, mo! Well, we’ve just arrived back home so whether we’ve gone shopping or are arriving back from work or somewhere else, maybe you’re hungry, so let’s head into the kitchen; yes, your kitchen. What was left out, that if it’s not taken care of right aware might offer an opportunity for an incident, a home injury incident? I’m thinking, kitchen equals knives. Once you move into cooking mode, the knives will come out’ of course, but they shouldn’t be left out. Pots (the ones without long handles) and pans (the ones with long handles) also will come out, and those long pan handles should not be left protruding out and into where people walk. It doesn’t take much to catch a handle that’s left sticking out and the consequences of knocking a pan with hot water or something cooking in oil can be nasty, and sometimes extremely serious.
From The Kitchen To The Dining Area
Your dining area might be integral with your kitchen, or maybe separate. either way, hot dishes often have to be carried to and from the dining table. Always an opportunity for taking a trip you didn’t plan on. That young pre-schooler and his toy cars, for instance, most likely will not be the victim, it will be someone older! When babies the reaching the toddler stage, they’re also capable of reaching many things that hang down. In the dining room, it would be the table cloth. In any room, it could be the cords that secure the blinds. Tie them up or otherwise put them out of reach especially any cord that presents a loop that’s with that young person’s reach.
When you have visitors, depending on who they are and how long they’re staying, the one room they are most like to ask if they can use it is, of course, the bathroom. What might there be left out in your bathroom that could be a potential hazard? If you have anyone in your family who has a physical disability you might already have assistive safety aids such as grab bars, but if you don’t, and if you have a visitor with a disability, how would they fare? Would they perhaps need some assistance or other accommodation? Often placing a dining chair in a bathroom if you have an elderly visitor can be a great help.
Later, you’ll see we’ve compiled a list of things, room-by-room, for you to use to check through and check off each item.
The Family Room
The family room is the other most likely area that your visitors might be entertained in. It’s also the place where you and your own family are likely to spend a good amount of time. With all of the electronic gadgets we rely on today, trailing power cords are often a potential hazard. With young toddlers, their innate curiosity will have them follow the cord to the wall and try to pull it out, and their little fingers can curl around that plug and make contact with the prongs before the plug has disengaged. Using a heavy power strip and plugging lightweight power cords into the power strip can reduce the likelihood of a toddler getting a potentially serious electric shock.
Injuries as the result of incidents in bathrooms account for a good percentage of injuries in the home. Small children that injure themselves with nail scissors or tweezers; even safety razors that were left within their reach, Emergency Room visits can result because a young child has swallowed pills that were left unattended, as can falls incurred by the elderly that result in broken hips or injured shoulders. Non-slip bath mats are suggested for showers and baths that don’t have a non-slip surface.
Grab bars to assist elderly or larger people in getting in and out of showers or baths are a smart preventative move. Smarter than waiting until some who is becoming elderly proves that they are.
If you have stairs and you have toddlers, safety gates that are securely installed are recommended.
If you have elderly adults or anyone with physical disabilities that needs extra support from a handrail to navigate stairs safely, having sturdy handrails might require special installation beyond relying upon decorative handrails which are designed for normal hand holding but not for full adult-weight load bearing. Often stairs have only one handrail or banister installed and so adding a second is often a requirement.
For those that have a severe disability and still prefer their bedroom to be upstairs, monorail chair lifts an option.
Safety in the home for the elderly often results in safety equipment in the home becoming a necessity.
Bedrooms, especially for children, youth and young adults that haven’t yet left home are much like their own living room. Power cords not properly managed provide an opportunity for tripping and causing bruises or breaks. Drawers left pulled out that make a chest of drawers potential unstable and heavy items balanced on shelves that can fall are serious potential hazards – but are easy to rectify – the latter being especially likely to result in an injury incident in locations such as California where earthquakes are experienced.
Elderly people often have injury incidents in bedrooms due to trips and falls; tripping on rugs or over clothing that has fallen on the floor, or falling due to loss of balance while dressing.
The bottom line
Safety awareness in the home is a good thing to be active about. Not just in June – which each year is Safety Awareness Month – but every month, even every week and every day. Safety equipment for babies, safety equipment for toddlers, safety devices of all kinds really for all ages but those with the greatest needs for safety equipment are older adults and those of any age with physical disabilities. Paradoxically, safety devices and safety equipment can themselves be the cause of safety incidents, so extra care and attention is needed, both in how they are used and how they are stored when not in use.