Home Safety and Safety Issues


Safety issues while caring for an older family member at home can be deceptive. If you have lived in your home for a long time, you get used to things as they are. You may not notice safety hazards. And, you may not think about the home environment in terms of safety.

But for frail older adults, and especially those with Alzheimer's Disease and dementia, everyday things can be hazards.




Easy Access Medical Information

A similar product is an improvement on the MedicAlert bracelets that have been used for years. Now, detailed health histories are stored on a keychain size Med-InfoChip USB drive that uses its own database. When plugged into a computer, the patient or family member can input pertinent medical data. Information on doctors, family history, family and emergency contacts, allergies, medications and insurance coverage are some of the types of information that may be stored. Digital copies of x-rays and EKG reports may also be stored. Medical workers can easily see the files by plugging the drive into a computer. The Med-InfoChip has various megabytes of memory depending on cost, with ranges from $70-$100.





Fires can be life threatening. They are a real concern for an older adult who is experiencing balance problems or who is taking certain medications. This is especially true of an older adult who is living alone. Older adults living alone who have disabilities are also at higher risk than the rest of the population.

The National Fire Protection Association provides a number of fact sheets to educate people about the hazards of fire and how to prevent fires in the home.




Global Positioning Devices

Caregivers might also benefit from the advances in Global Positioning Devices (GPS).  Check online to see what is available.




Home Safety Checklists

Several caregiver websites have developed extensive home checklists to help you identify potential hazards. To follow are links to sites that offer such a checklist. Print out the checklist and thoroughly check your home for hazards. With a small amount of effort on your part, you could save your older family member serious harm.


The National Institute on Aging offers a booklet called "Home Safety for People With Alzheimer's Disease". The goal of the booklet is to "improve home safety by identifying potential problems in the home and offering possible solutions to help prevent accidents". They provide an extensive checklist of potential hazards along with remedies/solutions.


Logo The non-profit Home Safety Council provides online education on safety issues for all ages.  Create your own personalized safety checklist by answering a few simple questions.  Tour a virtual home to see potential safety issues.  Read about likely hazards in your home.



National Resource Center
on Supportive Housing and Home Modification

The National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification works to make supportive housing and home modification a more integral component of successful aging, long-term care, preventive health, and the development of elder-friendly communities. It is a university-based, non-profit organization funded by The Archstone Foundation and The California Endowment.




Medical Alert Systems
(Personal Emergency Response Systems)

Medical Alert Systems offer your older family member the opportunity to easily call for help. For a monthly fee, you will receive a wearable unit that has a button to push for help. A central monitoring location fields any calls for help. They will call pre-arranged numbers automatically. It might be 911, then a relative, then a neighbor. Or it might be a neighbor, then the sheriff, then 911. The monitoring location might be local or it might be a national clearinghouse. When you decide which program to use, ask about location, response time, and cost. Many hospitals offer this service as do local for-profit companies. Your local aging agency or caregiver specialist will be able to help you find suitable companies to choose from.



NC NC Resources

Southern Orange

UNC Hospital Department of Volunteer Services 919-966-4793

Northern Orange

Durham Regional Hospital 919-479-6050

Western Orange

Alamance County General Hospital 336-538-7000
Lifeline Resources for Seniors 919-872-7933
Lifeline Rex Hospital 919-784-4535
Wakelink WakeMed Hospital, Volunteer Services 919-350-7746


Another similar program is the "Vial of Life" program. Older adults keep a bottle in their refrigerator with a list of medications they are taking in case paramedics are needed and the senior lives alone and is unable to speak.

If you are unsure if your county offers such a program(s), contact your local Sheriff, County Emergency Management, or local hospital.





As a caregiver for an older adult, it is important to know what to do in case of a poisoning. Many adults are unaware that alcohol, medicines, and others products can poison you. Also, many adults do not guard against carbon monoxide. Medication dosing errors and mixing of medications are two of the most common types of poisoning for older adults.

A poison is anything that can harm someone if it is:

  • used in the wrong way
  • used by the wrong person, or
  • used in the wrong amount

There is a resource for citizens funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration called Poison Help. Often an expert at Poison Help can provide assistance to you over the phone. The expert can give first aid advice. He or she can tell you what to look for. If the poison expert thinks you have an emergency that requires hands-on care, the expert will tell you to call 911. If the person is not breathing or is having other acute symptoms, call 911 immediately. For general information or if you have a poison question, call Poison Help.

A call to the toll-free number provides:

  • Instant help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Trained pharmacists, nurses, or doctors ready to assist you
  • Multilingual services
  • Free access
  • Confidentiality

There are 61 poison centers around the country. If you call Poison Help, you will be connected to the poison center for your area. You will not talk to a national phone operator. You will talk to a local expert. These experts include pharmacists, nurses, and doctors who work at poison centers across the country. One of these experts will answer the phone when you call Poison Help. All of these medical experts have passed special training to handle poison emergencies. They will provide help with any possible poisoning, even if you are not sure a poisoning has occurred. You can talk to an expert any time of day or night, 7 days a week from anywhere in the United States.

Poison Helpline

Should you have a drug interaction emergency call 911.
For more information on poisoning call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222.




Vision Changes

As people age, certain changes related to vision tend to happen with more frequency. Normal tasks such as reading regular size print, driving at night, and being able to see in dim light become more difficult. These changes may have an impact on a person's ability to be safe in his or her home.

The following are the most common vision changes related to aging:

  • cataracts
  • diabetic retinopathy
  • glaucoma
  • macular degeneration

The Family Caregiver Alliance has put together a fact sheet on vision loss related to aging. They define what the changes are and current treatment options. Also discussed are adaptive living techniques that can be used to lessen the impact and assistive devices that may help.



Caregiver Specialist
If you want more information, contact a local caregiver specialist for personalized assistance.




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