Home Safety


The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” applies to the issue of home safety. How many of us know that a rug is loose, a step cracked or a handrail in need of installing, but say, “We’ll get around to the problem — one of these days”?

Statistics show that home-based injuries such as falls and burns are major causes of hospitalization and long-term rehabilitation. However, many of these injuries are easily preventable with the use of common sense.

Spring, the season of spring cleaning, is also a good time to take an objective look at your house. Awareness is the key to a safe home.

There are a number of checklists for home safety available today. Even when you think you have considered everything, you might be surprised to discover items you have overlooked.

Although these checklists have been developed for seniors, the concepts of preventing injuries and extending independent living apply to everyone.

Your Safe-Home Checklist:
This checklist has been in use for eight years. Designed by the City of Toronto Mayor’s Committee on Aging, Departments of Public Health and Housing,in association with many community groups, it includes tips and checks for all areas of the home. It is free to residents of Toronto, and at a nominal cost to others. Contact: Margaret Reid, phone: (416) 486-0061; fax: (416) 486-9610.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC):
CMHC has produced a self-assessment guide, “Maintaining Seniors’ Independewnce through Home Adaptations.” This guide is accompanied by a video, which can be purchased for $9.95. While it focuses on the seniors, another publication, “Maintaining Seniors’ Independence: A Guide to Home Adaptations” has a focus on professionals.

CMHC also has other publications relating to safety: 1) “Safety at home: A Guide to Personal Response Services”; and 2) “A Modification Checklist: Accessibility for Disabled Persons using the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program for the Disabled.” Using this checklist, “applicants [to the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program] may be requested to provide a list of recommended modifications required to their homes signed by a physician or occupational therapist” (p.33). Contact: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, phone: 1-800-668-CMHC (2642); fax: (613) 748-4069.

Safe Living Guide — A Guide to Home Safety for Older Adults:
Health Canada is in the process of publishing a “Safe Living Guide: A Guide to Home Safety for Older Adults.” This will be available in French and English in the spring of 1997. Watch for announcements regarding this publication on the Health Canada, Division of Aging and Seniors website. The address is: http:// www.hwc.ca/datahpsb/seniors/index.htm. Contact: Simone Powell, fax: (613) 957-7627.

Occupational therapists (OTs) helped to produce all of these checklists; we all recommend safe environments to avoid injuries.

Storefront Safety Display:
Over the winter of 1995-96 in Toronto,the Home Safe Home Road Show set up an interactive storefront display of home adaptations under the direction of an OT. Adaptive home equipment loaned to the display by suppliers was available to take home for trials. Many people visited the display to learn how to create a safer environment for themselves.

The information gained from this community development pilot project, funded by New Horizons: Partners in Aging, Health Canada, will be available in spring, 1997. The materials, pamphlets, videos and workshops will be a valuable resource for community agencies, health professionals and seniors living in the community.

Peer Volunteer Home Safety Assessment for Seniors in the Community:
In consultation with an OT, the Sunnybrook Health Science Centre Family Practice in Toronto, Ontario, has completed a project in which seniors were trained to provide home safety assessments to other seniors. The effectiveness of this approach continues to be studied.

Although this study involved seniors, the model could well be extended to other sectors, such as people with disabilities.

Occupational therapists also use the SAFER Tool — the “Safety Assessment of Function and Environment for Rehabilitation.” This checklist was developed by Community Occupational Therapists and Associates (COTA). It is researched, validated and used by OTs, who are trained to assess clinically a client’s functional ability and make appropriate recommendations.

Home safety is vital to everyone. Occupational therapists can help to promote independence in a healthy, injury-free environment. The services of OTs may be covered by provincial healthcare programs or through additional medical insurance benefits. You can reduce risk in your environment by contacting an OT for more information about home safety.

(Catherine Brackley, OT(C), is an independent seniors safety consultant. For more information, call her at Brackley Associates, 24 Braeside Rd., Toronto, ON, M4N 1X7; phone: (416) 485-8612; fax: (416) 485-3019.)

TEL: (613) 523-2268
FAX: (613) 523-2552
WEBSITE: http://www.caot.ca/


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