If you or someone who visits you often uses a walker, lengthen the run of your steps to a depth of at least 30 inches.  This deeper run allows you to place your feet and your walker on each step before you begin to negotiate the next one.

Mark the edges of your steps with reflective or bright, contrasting colored tape or paint to make them clearly visible.


Fire Prevention

To reduce the danger of fire, keep broiler ovens and ventilation ducts and hoods free of grease.

Wear close fitting or short sleeves when you cook, or roll and fasten your sleeves back.  Loose sleeves can catch fire when they dangle near hot burners.  For added safety, don’t store things over the stove so that you must extend over hot burners to reach them.

Keep flammable objects clear of your stove.  Pot holders, dish towels, blowing curtains…if any of these come too close to a burner, you could start a fire.



Reaching into an oven is not only difficult but unsafe.  A toaster-oven or broiler that sits on your counter can substitute for a stove which requires awkward bending.  Consider, too, a microwave oven which will accelerate and ease meal preparation.

In selecting a microwave, keep stiff fingers in mind.  Choose one with a digital read out rather than one with a knob which must be grasped and turned.  On the other hand, consider a knob control if you have visual problems so you can gauge the time you set.

Stove – Electric

If you are in the market for a new stove, look for models with range and oven controls located in front or to the side of the burners rather than behind them.  If you have space, look for a stove with staggered burners.  Front controls, side controls, or staggered burners will eliminate reaching cross burners to turn your stove or oven on and off or to get to those at the back.  Magic Chef® and KitchenAid® manufacture stoves with these features.  Contact these manufacturers for a distributor near you.


Tub but take showers

To decrease the likelihood of tripping when getting in and out of the tub or shower, run a piece of tape in a contrasting color on the edge of the tub.  The tape will help you distinguish the tub edge when stepping in and out.  If you have decided to replace tub baths with showers, you may also consider removing the tub altogether, replacing it with a one-piece shower unit which has a fixed bench, grab bars and a base which rises only a few inches above floor level.  As with a tub edge, affixing a piece of contrasting tape on the lip or the shower base will help you distinguish it from the floor.

If you shower, secure your bathtub drain in the open position to eliminate having to bend from the hips or get down on your knees to reopen it, if it accidentally closes.


Water Temperature

Hot water heaters can heat water hot enough to give you a first-degree burn in just one second.  To prevent burns, set your water heater at no more than 120 degrees.


Door Locks

NEVER LOCK THE BATHROOM DOOR!  In an emergency, valuable time will be lost in gaining entry.

Door Swings In

If at all possible, your bathroom door should swing out.  If your door swings into the bathroom and you fall, you may get trapped behind it, blocking it from opening and wasting precious rescue time.  So the door swings out, change the hinges, or, if that is not possible, install a sliding (pocket) door or folding door.


Chair With Arms

An ounce of prevention:  Place Velcro™ tabs on the backs of often-used items such as the television remote control, and attach them to a Velcro™ strip on the wall, table or directly to the chair.  This will keep them at your fingertips and prevent them from falling on the floor.


Extension Cords

If you have extension cords, NEVER place them under a runner or scatter rug where they may be walked on.  Secure any loose cords against the base board with tape or clips designed for that purpose.

To avoid tripping over electrical or telephone cords, move them out of the way by routing them along the wall and fastening them down.  Using tape or special clips to attach the cords to the wall or floor is safe and neat.  You can find tape or cord clips at office supply stores.  Do not run cords under carpet or rugs as they wear out rugs and may cause a bump you can trip over.  To eliminate running cords across pathways: 1) Use an outlet closer to the lamp or appliance.  2) Move your phone closer to the jack.  Install a new outlet or additional jack in a better location.  3) try a cordless or cellular telephone.


Difficult To Open

After you have lubricated your window glides, for casement windows attach a cord to window to pull it down.  Use a pole or a product which works like a ratchet to push the window up.  You will find these methods require less force than pushing or pulling directly on the window.



If you ever groped your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you know how a footstool, wastebasket or errant pair of shoes can become a dangerous obstacle in the dark.  Install night lights in every room for safety; particularly in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways.  When choosing night lights, consider the panel-type of light which is on constantly and does not have to be replaced.  If night light installation is not possible, leave light on in the bathroom and the door slightly open.


Smoke Or Carbon Monoxide

Locate your smoke detectors away from air vents.  Fresh air from an air vent may prevent smoke-filled air from reaching the detector and the detector from sounding.

The chances of your survival in a home fire more than double when smoke detectors are well-maintained, according to the International Association of Fire Chiefs.  An early warning of fire can give you a few extra minutes to get out of a building.  1) Install smoke detectors on every level of your home.  (If you are building a new home, check local codes.  In new construction, many states require smoke detectors in bedrooms rather than in the hallway adjacent to the bedrooms)  You should install your smoke detectors either on the ceiling or 6 to 12 inches below it on the wall.  2)  Vacuum smoke detectors monthly.  Use a brush attachment so you will not damage the detector.  3) Change batteries annually.  A good way to remember: change the batteries on your birthday or when you turn your clocks back in the fall.  You will find smoke detectors at hardware and discount department stores.  4) Consider detectors with flashing lights or sound amplification.


David Wingate is an elder law attorney at the Elder Law Office of David Wingate, LLC. The elder law office services clients with powers of attorneys, living wills, Wills, Trusts, Medicaid and asset protection. The Elder Law office has locations in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.

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