Home Alone Safely
Most of us hold onto independence as long as possible, sometimes
coveting freedom even when it’s unsafe. Many elderly
persons or those with health risks have no other option but
to live alone, somewhat cut off from other people. But what
if we always have a hot button within reach—a
way to call for help if we find ourselves in trouble? Having
a connection to someone outside the home is key to living
alone safely. Knowing one has a connection actually ups quality
of life, as peace of mind helps all concerned. Fortunately,
if we use one of today’s new communication systems,
we can stay connected, especially when it really counts.
Get a Lifeline!
There are a lot of devices and home protection tips that can
help keep us safe. Use of a cell phone, other types of adaptive
phones, or a personal emergency response
system (PERS) gives individuals the freedom, privacy,
and independence to live alone, without compromising safety.
This page describes available technology to keep you or a
loved one connected.
The invention of the cell phone probably benefited the disability
community most of all, because one can call for a ride or
for help from a wheelchair any time via cell phone. Your cell
phone can remain with you at all times so there’s no
need to track down a pay phone or dig for coins (let alone
grip and insert coins into pay phone slots placed way out
of reach.) If there’s a medical emergency or a problem
with your wheelchair, your cell phone/lifeline
is always right there with you! Also, a cell phone can be
worn using your choice of attachments. (See Accessories
below.) As with any new technology, cost drops after a couple
of years, so now it seems everyone has one, not just busy
executives. You may as well have one for safety!
Users (or a helper) can program 911 into a contacts list,
plus telephone numbers of three neighbors or friends who can
come over within moments. (Cell-phone dealers can assist customers
with programming). TTY devices should also be programmed with
Flip-phones are not for butterfingers!
Flip-top cell phones are often too difficult to manage by
individuals with limited dexterity, so a one-piece cell phone
will be a better option.
help keep us in-touch
Make a commitment to protecting yourself or someone you care
about with a handy cell phone attachment! Buy a neck
cord or pouch for your cell phone. Attachments of all kinds
abound at cell phone dealers; everything from wristbands to
belt clips or waistband attachments, to pocket pouches, and
purses, or accessories that attach to a wheelchair.
Fasteners also come in a variety: snaps, clips, or Velcro
strips. New handbags and carry-on luggage now come with cell
phone compartments. Decide which one(s) are most convenient;
then keep your cell phone charged and on-board at all times!
Don’t forget to charge!
In the beginning, new users may wish to write a reminder note
or set an alarm clock for when it’s time to charge
the cell phone!
If a cellular telephone (along with the monthly service) isn’t
affordable, a cordless telephone can be kept in the basket
of a mobility device until bedtime (a walker basket, hanging
pouch for crutches, scooter, or wheelchair basket) or kept
on the floor in case of a fall. Return the cordless phone
to its charging station each night and keep that on a night
stand near to your bed so you’ll have access to a phone
even in bed.
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For an instant, one-button connection (though more costly),
your lifeline can be a walkie-talkie-type cell phone that
corresponds with another person (a relative, friend, or other
emergency contact). Users send a Call Alert on a
Nextel® Walkie-Talkie or a Nextel® Nationwide Walkie-Talkie®
to instantly notify another walkie-talkie user. The alert
plays intermittently until the recipient answers. Nextel's
walkie-talkie service is built-in to every Nextel phone. Nextel
customers have a choice of local, national, or international
ADT Security Systems, in addition to protecting your home,
offers a type of “personal panic button”
to be worn around the neck when in the yard or other peripheral
parts of your property. It is hard-wired to further protect
you from home invasion, not just your belongings.
It’s called Mobile 911.
This is another way to foster confidence in consumers who
live alone, as well as family or care-takers. The Mobile 911
device corresponds with local 911 emergency services, 24 hours
a day. When users press the red button, a signal reaches authorities
who send help immediately. Visit http://www.adt.com
or call 1(877) 259-8439. Other home security companies have
similar services; check with yours. (Installing window-locks
also slows down a home-invader.)
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A Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) is a communication
system precisely designed to answer and respond to calls for
help. A PERS system consists of an electronic sensor (easy
to use, waterproof button worn by consumer) that transmits
a distress signal over telephone lines to a call center. The
call center responds immediately, as appropriate to the situation
and to your specific instructions given when you set up a
PERS system. A PERS system also includes a 2-way speaker-phone
powerful enough to pick up someone’s voice from any
room in the home. There are several companies that produce
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General Electric produces the CareGard PERS. See GE’s
Web site for a description of products, costs, and services.
Lifeline also provides a PERS system with trained emergency
care providers available 24 hours a day. Call a Lifeline
representative regarding cost of service: 1-800-380-3111.
Medical Alarm.com is yet another PERS. Check Web Medical
Alarm.com for details and costs.
MedScope loans you a discreet, waterproof transmitter,
available in a pendant or wristband. Users may call
for help on a 2-way system 24 hours a day, 365 days
a year. A national network of response centers send
necessary help, as well as keep medical record and medications
to medical personnel. Users benefit from two-way voice
communication with operators who specialize in emergency
monitoring at a central response center
Falls—unable to get up:
Falling and getting stuck is not always a medical emergency,
but not being able to call for help can result in serious
consequences. Helplessness runs the gamut from inconvenience
to injury, even fatality if one lacks access to food, water,
medication, and the bathroom—a traumatic ordeal at best.
Safe-proof your home with the precautions described below.
Personalize Your Safety Needs
Every family must personalize safety needs
by addressing the potential risks facing their unique situation.
Whether these are medical concerns, such as Alzheimer’s
disease, seizure disorder, or other health issues, it’s
necessary to consult with the patient’s physician. Many
organizations provide Web sites that address specific illnesses
or conditions, offering information about prevention, care
Seizure Response Dogs
It sounds too simple, but worth some consideration! A seizure-response dog (for epileptics) or other service animal may provide just enough help and confidence to allow an older adult to continue living alone. Their companionship can actually improve quality of life.
Caring for an Elder
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
provides information about caring for elders: http://www.aarp.org/
and Evercare Connections is another organization
set up to help face the challenges of caring for an aging
In a changing neighborhood, it might be a good idea to beef
up security with an electronic surveillance
system and/or extra window locks. One needn’t
live in constant fear, but implementing a few practical safety
precautions always pays off. There are always ways to minimize
potential problems. A visit to the Home
Safety Council Web site is a great place to learn how.
They provide guidance for preventing and dealing with personal
safety, and dealing with natural catastrophes like fires and
Eliminate throw rugs
It’s easy to secure area rugs with rubber anti-slip
rug liners underneath each rug. But small bathroom
rugs are dangerous, and in fact a leading cause of slips and
falls. Another leading cause is tubs and showers without bathmats
or anti-slip appliqué; make sure you have anti-slip
protection in your tub!
Make sure there is adequate lighting in each room. Make sure
floors are clear of objects one can trip over, especially
for persons living with blindness or a visual impairment.
In the event of a fall, having an unconventional set of wheels
around could save your life. A type of dolly or palette on
wheels, such as the type auto-mechanics use to slide under
a car, can move one out of the path of a fire, or to a telephone.
Palettes are available at auto supply stores and home repair
centers, such as Sears or Home Depot.
Another important consideration for home safety is making
sure one is secure in one's bed. Adapted beds protect sleepers
from rolling off or becoming trapped. Adapted beds offer features
such as protective bars. There are many adaptive bed manufactures,
including English Avenue Industries. They manufacture
SleepSafe/SleepSafer beds: http://www.sleepsafebed.com.
For pediatric furniture, hospital cribs and youth/age appropriate
beds, visit Hard Manufacturing at http://www.hardmfg.com.
Persons with medical conditions sometimes become dizzy or
run the risk of fainting when medications aren’t taken
on time. Planting extra doses of medicine in each room could
prevent a fall or serious injury, as long as the medication
doesn’t require refrigeration, e.g. nitroglycerin tablets
for cardiac conditions, an inhaler for asthma, or hard candy
for certain types of diabetes—whatever is needed for
your specific chronic illness. If a medication requires refrigeration,
it may not be a bad idea to keep a mini-fridge in the room
farthest from the kitchen as to cover two territories. If
one’s condition is extremely volatile, packing a cooler
each day to place nearby would not be extraneous; it could
even save a life!
Distribute house keys
All the technology in the world won’t help if no one
can open your door, so make sure to distribute keys to at
least three other people who can come over within minutes.
It may feel disquieting at first to give out keys, but if
there’s any possibility you may need to be rescued,
the people you’ve chosen as emergency contacts will
need access to you. So choose your most trust-worthy friends
and neighbors, along with relatives, just in case anything
happens. You will actually be safer.
A product known as the Knox box can be installed outside the front door, only open-able by your local fire department. (Itís the same idea realtors use for showing properties.) Designed for persons at risk, make sure to call and verify that your local fire department supports it. Only 9,000 fire departments in the U.S. do thus far. For information about the Knox box, see: http://www.knoxbox.com.
We never think about this until it's too late—how to
get the door unlocked when someone is trapped inside. If chronic
falling, seizures, vertigo or dizziness, or mobility limitations
impact your life or someone close to you, hire a locksmith
to install an additional lock to be placed low to the ground.
When you or a person at risk is home alone, he or she should
only use the lower lock. When away, only use the top lock
or the one that’s easiest to reach. Wheelchair and scooter
users should have only one lock placed a little lower than
the wheelchair seat, in case of falling. Another option, though
costly, is an automatic door opener that operates with a remote
Fire Safety, etc.
Make sure you have one of each: smoke alarm, carbon-monoxide
detector, and a fire-extinguisher. Keep batteries charged
and fire extinguishers current. Mark expiration dates for
each on the calendar. If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing,
purchase a special siren-detector or alerting
device for persons with hearing loss.
Plan to get out alive
There is very little time (usually only one to two minutes)
to escape a burning building during a fire, especially because
of smoke inhalation. Everyone needs to have a plan to get
out alive—that is a preplanned escape route customized
to your home. A plan minimizes time thinking about what to
do during the real thing. McDonald's Corporation offers a
valuable videotape educating viewers on how to devise a personal
fire safety plan. Call McDonald's Educational Resource Center
at 1 (800) 627-7646.
Think carefully about which precautions will actually help
you or a loved one. Everyone’s situation is different,
so be realistic—will this actually help or hinder? Should
someone learn to tolerate a new practice that could save his/her
life? Always keep a real person in mind,
whether it’s yourself or someone else. Then get set
up while things are quiet—most safety steps are easy
to put into place!
If you have safety tips to share with Infinitec site visitors,
please send email to the link below with your suggestions.
Wishing all of you good health and safety at home!
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Home Safety Resources
Rolls and strips of specialty adhesive tapes help prevent
slips and falls on all types of surfaces, indoors, outdoors,
in the shower, and various floor coverings. SafetyWalk™
comes in a large variety of styles to match appropriate
surfaces. Available at hardware stores and home improvement
(Also see Bathroom Modifications:
American Medical I.D.
This is a non-profit organization that provides medical
identification jewelry with a number that corresponds
to your complete medical file, medications, and advance
directives. In a medical emergency, this quickly provides
vital information to medics or other medical professionals
to give prompt, precise treatment 24 hours a day.
Coming Home: Understanding home modifications when sudden changes are needed
A how-to and resource guide for families involved in care-giving for an elderly or disabled loved one
returning home from a hospital or nursing home.
Home Depot-Home Safety
Home Depot sells many safety products, as well as multi-media
safety guides. Home Depot offers everything from first-aid
kits, surveillance devices, flashlights, and more. You
may also purchase books, CDs, and videos covering all
types of emergency preparedness, including medical emergencies
and natural emergencies such as earthquakes, fires,
Home Safety Council
An excellent source of information, this national non-profit
organization offers comprehensive guides to home safety
(in both English and Spanish) for setting up safe environments
for everyone in the household from infants to seniors.
The Web site provides shopping lists for items needed
from night-lights and safety gates, to grab bars and
bath mats. A medication tracker can be completed and
printed out to help keep track of medications. All types
of hazards and emergencies are addressed: preventing
slips and falls, fires, accidental poisoning, carbon
dioxide poisoning, checklists for child-proofing, and
This is not a Personal Emergency Response System. However,
MedicAlert® stores medical records and dosing schedules
for medication. If you ever become unconscious, your
MedicAlert bracelet or pendent is pre-registered with
the MedicAlert Call Center so paramedics and medical
personnel can obtain your medical records immediately.
Service is available 24 hours a day, anywhere in the
U.S. Fire Administration
The U.S. Fire Administration Web site outlines information
to protect your family from fire. Included is information
about smoke alarms, residential fire sprinklers, escape
planning, consumer product recalls, fire safety tips,
and what to do after a fire.
Infinitec Inc. does not endorse or recommend these products
and has no liability for the results of their use. Infinitec
Inc. has received no consideration of any type for featuring
any product on this Web site. The information offered herein
is a summary; it is not comprehensive and should be carefully
evaluated by consumers with the assistance of qualified professionals.
The intention of Infinitec Inc. is to offer consumers a brief
overview of various assistive technology devices and their