As you get older you are more likely to have an accident in your home and your injuries are likely to be more severe. Older people can also feel vulnerable, especially if they live alone. This information sheet is aimed at helping you to identify the areas of your home that need attention and details of organisations who can offer advice.
Safety in the kitchen
Most household accidents happen in the kitchen, especially burns and scalds. The following steps are aimed at preventing some of the most common accidents:
• Keep saucepan handles turned inward over the cooker, but not over another heated ring. This way you avoid accidentally knocking them over.
• Over filling your kettle will make it heavier and you may drop it. Only boil enough water for the drink you are making. Try using a cordless kettle which has no wires to get tangled up. Alternatively you could replace the straight cord with a curly one.
• Move all the things that you need to within your reach so that you do not have to stretch too far.
• Make sure that you have plenty of surface space before you start doing anything with hot liquids or foods.
• Use a timer to remind you that you have left something cooking. Burnt food or pans may start a fire.
• Try to clear up straight away anything you spill on the floor. It is very easy to slip on spilt liquids or foodstuffs if you have forgotten they are there.
• If you have a gas cooker try to remember to check the pilot light regularly to make sure that it hasn’t gone out.
Safety on the stairs and when moving around your home
There are a number of practical things you can do to ensure that you can move around your home safely:
• Good lighting throughout your home is essential especially on the stairs. Fit high wattage light bulbs. Using long-life bulbs will save you money over time as they don’t need changing as often.
• Do not leave anything lying on the stairs. Try to vacuum the stairs regularly (be careful of the trailing wire and parts of the vacuum cleaner), or carefully clean the stairs with a dustpan and brush or cordless vacuum.
• Use the handrail every time you go up or down the stairs. Having a hand rail fitted on both sides of the stairs can make them safer to use.
• Try to ensure that your shoes and slippers are in good condition. Avoid wearing footwear that is old or worn out as these make accidents more likely to happen.
• Flat shoes with thin, non-slip soles will give you extra stability if you are at all unsteady on your feet.
• Try not to carry too much at once and get help with any heavy lifting.
Safety in the bathroom
Once again, by taking a few simple measures you can ensure that your bathroom is safer:
• Avoid scalding; either run the cold water tap before the hot, or run both taps together. Always test the water before getting into the bath. If you have a shower it should have a temperature selector or cut-out device which will stop the water from becoming too hot.
• Be especially careful when getting in and out of the bath. You can have a non-slip matt placed in your bath for a relatively low cost. A well placed hand rail (grab rail) will help you keep your balance while getting in and out of the bath or pulling yourself up. Equipment such as a bath seat will help you if you have great difficulty getting in and out of the bath. Contact Help & Care and ask for fact sheet "Help with Daily Living" and select the pages "Equipment for daily living".
• A fitted carpet in the bathroom is safer than vinyl flooring and loose mats.
• Always leave your bathroom door unlocked in case you do have a fall or an emergency this allows easy access for the emergency services if necessary. If you have a personal alarm or care line pendant or bracelet, remember to take it into the bathroom with you. If you have a mobile phone, take that into the bathroom, but keep it out of the water! The Help & Care fact sheet "Help with Daily Living" and select the section "Emergency Telephone Alarms" for information about care line services available.
• If you do find that you cannot get out of the bath, try to pull the plug out so that you don’t get cold in the water. Try to pull some towels around you to keep warm until help arrives.
• Never use mains-powered electrical appliances in the bathroom.
General safety around the home
There are a number of practical things you could do to make moving around your home safer.
• Think about rearranging your furniture so that you can move around your home more easily. Make sure you keep the floor and stairs free of clutter.
• Trailing electric flexes and fraying carpets may trip you up or cause a fall; make sure you keep the floor clear of these hazards.
• Keep electric fires and heaters, or mobile heaters away from bedclothes, curtains, or other furniture.
• If you have an electric blanket make sure that you regularly check for danger signs such as frayed fabric, worn flex, scorch marks. It is probably safer to buy a new blanket if your current one is damaged in any way, as it is quite difficult to find an electrician to service electric blankets. Always remember to switch off electric under blankets before you get into bed.
• In the bedroom check that your bed is at the right height. When you are sitting on the edge of the bed the soles of your feet should touch the floor and you should be able to stand up easily. It is very easy to trip when you first get out of bed so watch carefully for any trailing or loose dressing gown cords, sheets, blankets or clothes that may have fallen onto the floor. Some people can feel faint or light-headed when first getting out of bed. Take a minute or so to sit on the edge of the bed before standing up just to get your balance.
• Always use a stepladder to change a light bulb or hang curtains, never stand on a chair. If you have difficulty doing small household jobs or repairs there are agencies able to do these jobs for you for a small cost. Contact Help & Care on 0300 111 3303 and ask about the Handiworks Plus scheme (details below).
• Take care when doing jobs where you need to raise your arms above your head or tip your head back, such as window cleaning or changing a light bulb. This sort of movement can make some people feel light-headed and dizzy. If this happens to you avoid doing these types of job and get someone to do it for you.
• When using electrical items always read the instructions carefully especially when using power tools or electric garden tools. When using garden equipment always use a power point fitted with a residual current devise (RCD) as this will cut off the power if a fault develops or if the cable is accidentally cut through.
• If you are having difficulty reaching electric sockets that are at floor level you should get them moved to a more suitable position. It is possible to buy electric plugs with specially fitted grips or handles to make them easier to grasp.
• Always make sure that all chemical products in your home such as bleach, turps, caustic soda, or weed killers are clearly labelled and stored in their correct containers. Never transfer them to a bottle or container that has been previously used for something else (especially food or drink). Always store these items well away from where children may find them.
There are several simple steps that you can take to make your home more secure and to give you peace of mind:
• Make sure that you have adequate door and window locks.
• Have a door chain and spy hole fitted to your doors.
• Use the chain every time you answer the door. Do not leave the chain on all the time as this will slow your exit in the event of a fire.
• Get a community alarm/ care line fitted so that you can call for assistance even if you cannot get to the phone.
• Be vigilant. If you see someone acting suspiciously in your neighbourhood, report it to the police and let your neighbours know.
• Items such as televisions and other valuables can be marked with your post code. One option is an ultraviolet pen which is invisible to the naked eye but shows up under ultraviolet light (these can be purchased from most DIY stores or stationers).
• If your property is recovered by the police, you are more likely to have it returned if it has been marked.
For further information about property marking and advice about home security contact your local police station on 101 non-emergency calls - IN AN EMERGENCY ALWAYS CALL 999
Agencies able to help make your home safe and secure
Help & Care Handiworks Plus (available to residents of Bournemouth, Poole, East Dorset, Christchurch and Purbeck)
Handiworks Plus is available to anyone over the age of 18 living in the Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch, East Dorset and Purbeck areas. Members of Handiworks Plus can call one number 0300 111 3303 and report any repairs or household maintenance issues and we will arrange for an appropriate police checked tradesperson who is skilled in their trade to carry out the work required. The Handiworks Team provide experienced, competitively priced trades people and will arrange all works on your behalf. The contractual relationship for each job is between you (the Handiworks Plus member) and the tradesperson. Handiworks Plus is a social enterprise, this means that 100% of any profits from the service provided by Handiworks Plus will fund Help and Care’s charitable work. Membership of Handiworks Plus costs £30 a year. The services available include:
• General Handyman – small building works and maintenance build flat pack furniture, fit draught proofing, put up curtain rails/blinds, moving furniture within the home, hanging mirrors and pictures, clearing gutters.
• Electrical – rectifying loss of light or power, installing and repairing sockets and lights, fixing/replacing doorbells, installing outside security lights, installing power to new areas.
• Carpentry – Door and window repairs, door furniture fitting and repairs, shelves fitted, skirting and architrave installation, repairs to sheds, fence and gate installation or repair.
• Plumbing - Tap repairs and replacement, bath and sink traps unblocked, internal leaks fixed, WC flushing faults rectified, radiators bled, baths and sinks sealed, washing machines and dishwashers plumbed in.
• Security and Safety – Window and door locks, spy holes and door chains fitted, smoke detectors, supply and fit key safes and grab rails.
• Gardening – Weeding, mowing lawns, planting flowers and shrubs, trimming hedges, pruning.
• Gas and central heating – rectifying loss of heating, rectifying loss of hot water, repair faulty radiator valves, installation of boilers, gas cookers and fires, servicing boilers and gas fires.
• Painting and decorating – internal and external painting, wallpapering, woodwork painting/staining, tiling, small areas of plastering.
• Flooring – carpet and vinyl fitted, laminate and ceramic floor tiles laid.
Handiworks Plus are also able to fit a Key Safe to your property for the fee of £70. Key Safes are particularly useful for elderly or disabled people who may have carers, family members, or friends visiting their home on a regular basis. The door key can be contained within the a small safe on the outside of the property with trusted visitors and carers being given the pass code to access the safe to let themselves into the property, therefore keeping your home safe and secure. For further information contact Handiworks Plus on 0300 111 3303.
Dorset County Council areas
If you live in areas covered by Dorset County Council and need advice about Handyman schemes in your area contact:
Dorset Accessible Home Service: Tel 0333 00 300 10 – services may then be carried out by:
Dorset Home Improvement Agency
2A Sunrise Business Park
Fire and gas safety
The most important thing to install is a smoke alarm/detector. Choose one with the British Standard number BS 5446 and the ‘Horseshoe’ mark. Smoke detectors are on sale at most DIY stores.
Dorset Fire and Rescue Service will offer help and advice about buying a smoke/fire alarm. They are also run campaigns when they will install a device for you. For further details contact:
Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service
Five Rivers Health & Wellbeing Centre
General Fire Safety
• If you have a chip pan or deep fat fryer do not fill it more than one third full. Never leave the pan unattended and do not put food into the pan if the oil begins to smoke. If the pan does catch fire, turn off the heat if you can. Cover the pan with a damp cloth or tea towel to smother the flames. Never throw water onto the fire.
• If you have an open fire you should always keep a fireguard round it. Never rest clothes or newspapers on the guard.
• Never leave a lit cigarette unattended and do not smoke in a chair if you think you are likely to doze of to sleep in it. Never smoke in bed.
• If you do discover a fire in your home, do not try to save your belongings. Get yourself and everyone else out of the house and call the fire service for help. Never go back into a burning building.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Around 40 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by faulty or poorly installed gas appliances. The gas has no smell or taste. Gas powered heating systems should be serviced every year to ensure that they run safely and reliably. You should also make sure that the flue or chimney is checked annually to remove any blockages otherwise a blockage can cause dangerous gases to build up. This can be fatal.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a silent killer, too many people die each year in the UK from CO poisoning, and many others become chronically ill. The main symptoms are very similar to flu; headaches, drowsiness, pains in the chest or stomach. CO poisoning can also affect a persons mental state making the victim appear to be suffering confusion or even dementia. People most at risk are the elderly, young children, people who may already have long term health conditions.
The problem is caused by poorly fitted or poorly maintained gas appliances such as gas fires and central heating boilers. A lack of ventilation around the appliance can aggravate the situation. There are four simple rules for safe gas use:
• Always use a GAS SAFE registered gas installer, ask to see their ID card.
• Make sure your appliances are checked for safety every year.
• Be aware of the danger signs such as; sooting or stain marks on or around the appliance, a yellow or orange lazy flame where they are normally crisp and blue, condensation in the room where the appliance is installed.
• Don’t do DIY on gas appliances or supplies.
To find a GAS SAFE registered heating engineer close to your home contact:
PO Box 6804
Tel: 0800 408 5500
Textphone for the hard of hearing: 0800 408 0606
Carbon Monoxide detectors are available at all good DIY retailers or Plumbers Suppliers. They are also available through some Telecare companies who also supply Carelines, contact Help & Care and ask for fact sheet No. 22 – Carelines to find out which carelines are available in your area.
Home Energy Care Register (British Gas)
The Home Energy Register is a Priority Service Register for all British Gas and/or electricity customers who are elderly, disabled or chronically sick. It enables us to record any specific requirements you have and helps us to provide you with the right services appropriate to your needs.
What are the benefits?
• Password scheme for added security – only genuine British Gas representatives visiting your home will be able to identify themselves with this pre-arranged password.
• Specially designed appliance controls and adaptors – for customers with dexterity or visual impairment.
• Advice booklets – these are all in a specified alternative format such as large print, Braille or cassette.
• Talking bill service; enlarged bills; Braille bills – if you receive your bill in an alternative format such as large print or Braille, you will also receive a quarterly tape –‘Newslink’- providing information on the products and services offered to British Gas customers.
• Free yearly gas safety check – by request, if you are of pensionable age, disabled or chronically sick and you live alone or with other people, all of whom are also of pensionable age, disabled, chronically sick or under 18 years of age.
• Moving you gas and/or electricity meters – if their position makes them difficult to use.
• Priority attention for general enquiries – quick response to any concerns you may have about your gas and/or electricity supplies.
• Priority in case of emergencies/notification of gas escapes and electricity supply interruptions.
• The nominee scheme – your gas and/or electricity bills can be sent to a nominated person of your choice.
To join the scheme contact: 0845 955 5404 – open 24hrs, every day of the year.
Textphone: 18001 0845 955 5202 – lines open Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm, Sat 8am – 6pm.
Taking care of yourself
Keeping yourself fit and active, taking regular exercise such as a walk or doing some gardening will increase your strength and balance, making you less likely to fall.
Try to have regular check ups with your optician to ensure your vision is good. Eating a well balanced diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D will help to keep your bones healthy and reduce the risk of injury. Tell your GP if you start having falls or are feeling unsteady. Your GP will be able to investigate why you are having falls, prescribe or change medication if necessary, refer you to other agencies or specialists able to help you such as; a chiropodist to help you feel more comfortable on your feet thereby improving your steadiness; the Community Nurse or Physiotherapist who can advise you on falls prevention.
Anti-social behaviour problems
Anti-social behaviour is ‘acting in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress to one or more persons not of the same household’ This includes acts such as criminal damage, alcohol misuse, neighbour disputes, intimidation and harassment. If you are affected by anyone behaving anti-socially in your neighbourhood contact your local Anti-social behaviour officer on the following numbers:
Purbeck District Council: 01929 556561
Further useful information
Help & Care have a range of fact sheet titles to help you live more independently.
British Gas Energy Trust – Dorset’s Healthy Homes Project
Loans and small grants to help towards energy efficiency improvements such as heating, help with fuel bills, debt relief orders and other needs. Anyone requiring assistance should ring Joanna Keats on 01305 216403 or mobile 07421994591 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Buy with Confidence
A local authority trading standards endorsed website listing registered and vetted tradespeople http://www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk/sitepages/bwchome.aspx .
Citizens Advice Bureau
Dorset Adviceline: tel 03444 111 444
For information and advice about switching tariffs, fuel and water debt advice, debt advice, consumer energy issues, Warmhome Discount, benefits advice.
Energy Saving Trust
Tel: 0300 123 1234
Advice about energy saving devices and products within your home. Information and advice about how to apply for grants to help you meet the cost of making your home more energy efficient.
Health Through Warmth (HTW)
HTW is an RWE Npower community initiative set up by npower in 2000 working together with the NHS and National Energy Action (NEA), the national fuel poverty charity. HTW offers help to vulnerable people living in England and Wales who have long term, cold related illnesses and need assistance to fund and install heating and insulation in their homes. For further information contact:
Npower Health Through Warmth Team
Tel: 0845 070 2809
Fax: 0845 120 7195
Public Health – Dorset Healthy Homes Scheme
Tel: 0300 003 7023
Assistance with cavity wall and loft insulation. Applicants need to be over 65, suffer with a cardiovascular or respiratory illness, or live with a disability, be on certain benefits, be pregnant or have a child under 5. Contact for more information about qualifying criteria.
Victim Support Dorset
Unit A19 Arena Business Centre
Tel: 01202 606200
Fax: 01202 606201
National Victim Supportline: 0845 30 30 900
Victim Support is the national independent charity for people affected by crime – victims and witnesses, their families and friends – we are here to help. Trained staff and volunteers offer free and confidential information, support and practical help following a crime, such as burglary, assault, harassment, domestic violence, rape and murder. Victim Support can offer:
• Someone to talk to in confidence.
• Emotional support and practical help.
• Information on the police, court procedures and criminal justice system.
• Support and information while attending court.
• Help with criminal injuries compensation and insurance claims.
• Contact with – and referral to – other relevant organisations.
• Advice on crime prevention.
• Help with housing or benefit problems