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Is your home a hazard?

Last updated: June 2010

Stairways that lack sufficient lighting or railings can be a danger.

A little clutter here, some poorly placed furniture there, a burnt out lightbulb you've been meaning to change in the stairwell or cellar. If that sounds like your home, you may be setting yourself up for a fall, the most common injury by far among adults.

Some 8.6 million adults age 25 and older injure themselves in falls each year. Falls are also the leading cause of accidental death among adults 65 and older, killing 16,650 in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available. Here are ways to prevent injuries, from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our own safety experts.

  • Remove throw rugs or use double-sided tape or a nonslip backing to secure them.
  • Clear a path. You should never have to walk around furniture or piles of papers, or hop over extension cords or safety gates.
  • Make sure there's a light in your stairway, and light switches (the kind that glow) at the top and bottom of the stairs. If your home lacks those, hire an electrician.
  • Where practical (the cellar or garage, for starters), paint the top edge of stairs with a contrasting color so that you'll see it better.
  • Secure loose stair carpeting and fix loose or uneven stairs.
  • Consider putting handrails on both sides of stairs.
  • In the kitchen, put often used items on shelves you don't have to stretch to reach.
  • Invest in a good step stool; don't use a chair.
  • Use a rubber mat in the tub or shower. Many bathtubs are too slippery.
  • Hire a carpenter to install grab bars inside the tub and next to the toilet.
  • Position a lamp next to your bed so that it's easy to reach.
  • Use a night-light if the path from bedroom to bathroom would otherwise be dark.

Especially for seniors

  • Exercise regularly to improve balance.
  • Make sure your doctor or pharmacist examines all your drugs, even over-the-counter medicines. Some can make you dizzy.
  • Have your vision checked once a year.
  • Wear shoes when you're inside and outside your home; don't go barefoot or wear slippers.
  • Write emergency numbers in large print and put them near all phones.
  • Put a phone near the floor in case you fall and can't get up.

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