Many times patients who have had a recent hospitalization or who have a chronic illness are cared for at home. In addition to their medical needs, these patients need to be protected from many home hazards that could otherwise cause them additional harm. Failure to take extra precautions can result in serious harm to the patient.
Insure that your home has smoke alarms and that all have fresh batteries. Also be certain that there is a way for the patient to escape from the home in the event of a fire. Plan at least two escape routes and be sure the patient has access to a ladder if she stays upstairs. If her illness prevents her from being able to use a ladder, have an escape plan in place that will provide assistance to the patient in case of fire.
Be sure to keep medications in the original containers and in a safe place away from children. For a patient taking multiple drugs, be sure that his doctor and pharmacist both know all of the drugs being taken, to avoid potentially harmful drug interactions. Do not change dosages or stop taking any drug without checking with the patient’s doctor first. Don’t use alcohol while taking medications.
Proper use of safety equipment can reduce slips and falls in the bathroom. Use skid-proof mats in showers and tubs. Be sure any rugs on the floor will not slip. Use a raised toilet seat and safety rails around the toilet. Put safety hand rails in the tub or shower enclosure, and add them at other places in the bathroom where the patient might need some extra help.
Keep halls and pathways in the house clutter-free. If the patient has a walker, be sure there is plenty of room for him to maneuver comfortably. Remove unsecured throw rugs and obstacles, such as cords, that might cross a walkway. Make sure lighting is effective and that areas, such as stairs, are well-lit. You can apply white or bright yellow tape at the top of stairs if there is any chance that the patient might miss the top step and fall, but be sure the tape is secure and doesn’t itself become a hazard. Hand railings along the stairway need to be secure and strong enough to steady someone who is ill if he should happen to lose his balance on the stairs. When the patient is getting up from his bed, have him sit for a few minutes on the edge of the bed before standing, to help lessen his chances of falling. For a patient who is unsteady on his feet, be sure he uses a walker, cane, or other device when walking, even a short distance, and keep it close at hand at all times.