Senior Homeowners: Think Safety First

By Michael Edlen
Special to the Palisades News

(Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a series of articles that answer requests for more informational help with various senior issues.)

Many seniors are victims of accidents in their own homes, and most of these accidents can be prevented with a series of practical considerations and corresponding follow-through actions. Creating a safer environment by eliminating potential hazards is well-worth the efforts it may involve by family members and other caregivers.

The process of maximizing the safety of a senior’s home generally requires mostly commonsense steps, and if done comprehensively it may enable them to live independently for many more years. Although every situation will have unique aspects to consider, the following suggestions will help make a senior’s home environment as safe as possible.

  • Have at least one entry to the home that does not have steps and repair any steps that are uneven or wobbly.
  • Be sure all stairs have railings on both sides that are secure.
  • Ramp slopes should be no more than two inches for every foot in length. Eliminate potential trip hazards along walkways.
  • Thresholds are best if removed or no greater than half an inch.
  • Subscribe to a personal safety response service in case of an emergency.
  • Program all phones with emergency one-touch numbers: family members, neighbors, fire department, police and medical professionals.
  • Add a side window to your front door or lower the peephole to your height.
  • Have sensor-controlled motion detection lights outside.
  • Have and practice an emergency escape plan in case of fire or earthquake.
  • Be prepared for emergencies and have a backpack for each occupant to grab and go with short notice. Items that may be useful include medications, doctor-signed prescriptions, water, flashlight and batteries, sanitary supplies, long-life food, plastic raincoat or poncho, lightweight blanket, cell phone charger, etc.
  • Have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors properly installed and periodically tested.
  • Remove or securely fasten any area rugs. Install low-pile carpeting or expose all hardwood flooring for safer use of a walker.
  • Give special attention to the kitchen and all bathrooms that will be used. Add non-slip strips to bathtubs and showers. Put non-skid mats on the bathroom floors. Replace shower doors with curtains. Add a fold-down shower seat. Install a handheld shower head with a 6-foot hose. Add an adapter toilet seat to raise the seat several inches higher than the current toilet. Add safety rails near the toilet and in the tub/shower areas.
  • Set the hot water heater temperatures to prevent scalding and clearly label all water faucets “hot” and “cold.”
  • Replace doorknobs and faucet handles with easy-to-use levers.
  • Relocate all appliances, dishes and serving pieces where they are easy to reach.
  • Use unbreakable dishes especially for regular daily use.
  • Fix or discard anything in the home that is broken and have all small entry holes or gaps closed up to prevent rodents.
  • Remove most sharp implements such as razor blades and knives and remove all poisons.
  • Put eye-level decals or stickers on glass and screen doors and increase the wattage on all lamps and in most interior areas for better lighting.
  • Have a regular schedule to check and clean or replace furnace and air conditioning filters and be sure all rooms have ventilation.
  • Have solid chairs in rooms most used in case it is needed while passing from one room to another.
  • Remove interior locks on all doors to prevent locking oneself in.
  • Remove electric blankets and be sure the thermostat is not set too high or too low. • Remove all clutter, even if it may take months to give away or toss things not serving a good purpose.

    Michael Edlen is one of only a few local agents certified as a Senior Real Estate Specialist®. He has counseled hundreds of seniors about solutions to help them stay in their homes longer if they prefer to. Call: (310) 230-7373 or email

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