BOSTON—Accidents at home rank among the leading causes of injury and death in the United States. The chance of dying because of an accident at home begins rising at age 65 and then jumps significantly—people age 75 and older are almost four times as likely to die in a home accident as people 65–74.
Preventing Accidents in the Home
Fortunately, it’s possible to prevent most home accidents. A new special health report from Harvard Medical School explains the leading causes of home accidents and how to avoid them.
According to Home Safety for Older Adults, here are the top five ways to stay safe at home:
Understand the physical changes that occur with age. Ask your doctor each year if you need tests for balance and gait, cardiovascular problems, joint stiffness, and neurological problems. Your doctor should also review the medications you take.
Improve your strength and balance through exercise to reduce your risk of falling.
Go room by room and assess potential tripping hazards. Some common problems are area rugs without a nonskid backing, clutter on stairs or floors, extension cords that jut into the room, and poorly lit staircases or doorways.
Prevent medication overdoses and interactions. Be careful to take your medications exactly as directed. If you take more than one medication, use a pill organizer that separates pills by day so you can keep track of what you need to take and whether you have taken it. Ask your doctor about possible interactions among your medications and with other substances such as alcohol, herbal and dietary supplements, and foods.
Install and maintain smoke alarms on every level of your home.
The report also addresses these topics:
What you need in a first-aid kit
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Preventing fires and burns
Preventing and treating choking, bleeding injuries, and overexertion
Protecting against intruders
Preparing for natural disasters and terrorist attacks