Family Meetings

This safety checklist is intended for use by older persons and/or their families to suggest ways to make the home safer.

Following these precautions will reduce the chances of falls and other accidents to which the elderly are prone to because of diminished vision, mobility and other disabilities.

General household suggestions

  • Have a list of telephone numbers to call in case of an emergency (911, doctors, relatives, etc.) near the phone and in LARGE, readable type or writing.
  • Check all electrical cords. Replace those showing signs of wear and tear.
  • Install adequate electrical outlets to prevent overloading circuits. Avoid multiple extension cords or electrics cords stretched across open areas or doorways.
  • Use non-skid wax on uncarpeted floors.
  • Use rubber-backed throw rugs (or place non-skid strips on backs of rugs).
  • Use strong and/or even lighting through the house or apartment.
  • Be sure that the doors can be unlocked from the outside in case of an emergency; this is especially important in the bathroom and bedroom.
  • Put smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in appropriate places (kitchen, bedroom) throughout the house/apartment; check smoke detector batteries twice a year.


  • Put a good, sturdy lamp next to the bed, or put the bed next to a light switch. This will enable the elderly person to find his/her way to the bathroom at night or locate a needed item without risking a fall.
  • Put a stable nightstand next to the bed. This provides a place for the older person's glasses and other necessary items within easy reach.
  • For frail elderly who are able to use one, place a phone on the bedside table. It will be extremely helpful in case of an emergency, and just knowing it is there may relieve an elder's anxiety and fears.
  • Use a nightlight to help the older person relieve feelings of disorientation when awakening during the night.
  • Keep clear pathways around the bed, to the door and to the bathroom.
  • Remove casters on beds, tables and chairs. Unintended movement of furniture used for support by the elderly person can result in a fall.
  • See that grab bars, railings or rope are mounted in hallways if bedroom is not easily accessible to the bathroom or living areas. Heavy pieces of furniture can also be strategically placed to serve as support for the frail person to get from room to room.
  • Use a hot water bottle for warmth at bedtime. Avoid the use of heating pads and electric blankets when sleeping. Elderly are less sensitive to heat and may become overheated or burned inadvertently.
  • For elderly who are smokers, arrange for a specific, safe place in the house where smoking is allowed. Discourage smoking in bed or while sitting on upholstered furniture.
  • Draw up and practice an evacuation plan in case of fire or other emergency.
  • Fix bed height so the older person can get on and off comfortably.
  • See that storage spaces and needed items are within easy reach of the older person.


  • Install grab bars by toilet and tub/shower areas; toilet frames, arm rests or commodes can be attached to or placed around the toilet.
  • Wipe up spills from shower or tub immediately or carpet entire bathroom to avoid slips or falls.
  • Use shower seat and shower hose if unable to stand safely while showering.
  • Check and set water heater thermostat to ensure that water temperature is not too hot.
  • Avoid use of electrical equipment in the bathroom as much as possible; water contact with this equipment may cause electrical shock.
  • Avoid using bath oil in the tub or shower.


  • Clean up the areas that are traditionally cluttered, such as the cupboards or high up drawers, to prevent them from reaching and falling.
  • Make sure the heavier items in the kitchen are at hip level, to prevent injury and the need to climb onto a step stool.
  • Test all smoke detectors every month.
  • Make sure meats, vegetables, eggs and fruits are all stored properly in the fridge to avoid cross contamination. If cross contamination does occur, throw away the food affected and the surrounding food.
  • Do not take risks with leftovers. If you are unsure of something, it is better to be safe than sorry. It is possible to get food-borne illnesses from leftovers!
  • Purchase automatic shut-off devices when possible to prevent a fire.
  • Never leave food cooking while unattended.


  • Use walker/cane for unsteady gait if needed.
  • Stand on the sidewalk, not in the street when waiting to cross.
  • Look both ways before entering a crosswalk. This is especially important for those elderly with diminished hearing.
  • Have regular eye examinations to ensure good vision.
  • Use sunglasses, hat or cap to help prevent glare.
  • When walking at night, wear white or beige clothing, use reflector tapes on shoes and clothing, or use reflectorized garments in orange or yellow.
  • Find a friend or companion when going out at night. Avoid dark areas. Do not carry valuables.

Stairs, pathways, gardens

  • Place bright-colored, non-skid strips on the edge of steps to prevent falls.
  • See that stairways, hallways, indoor and outdoor pathways are brightly and evenly lit.
  • Remove protruding objects (i.e. coat hooks, low light fixtures and shelves) from stairways or pathways.
  • Check steps and walkways for holes, cracks and splinters; make needed repairs.
  • Use smooth but slip-resistant handrails along stairways.
  • Avoid placing sharp rocks or objects along garden pathways. Keep hoses away from walkways. Store garden equipment between uses.


  • Choose shoes that are flexible and easily molded to the feet. Natural materials (suede, leathers) are cooler than manmade materials (plastic, nylon). Shoes with Velcro straps are easier to put on/take off.
  • The soles of shoes should be made of material that grips the floor, e.g., corrugated rubber or neolyte. Leather, wood, cork or crepe soled shoes may crack and cause falls.