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Home Safety

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.

Communication Devices as Lifelines
Cell phones
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!

Speed-dialing
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 emergency contacts.

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.

Accessories 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!

Cordless Phones
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.

Walkie-talkie telephones
http://nextelonline.nextel.com/en/services/walkietalkie/overview.shtml
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 service.

Cell Phone Resources:
Accessory Superstore from Cingular
http://cingular.scp4me.com/

Cingular
http://www.cingular.com/
Cell phones, mobile systems, and services

Voice Recognition feature
Persons unable to see and/or push the correct buttons on a cell phone can activate one using his/her voice. Your dealer can get you set up and show you how it works.

Sprint
http://www.sprint.com/personal/
Personal Sprint and Nextel products and services

Verizon
http://www22.verizon.com/Foryourhome/sas/sas_pwdlanding.aspx
Personal products and services, including adaptive equipment (talking caller I.D., amplification, TTY, large buttons, etc.)

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Home-Security Systems
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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Personal Emergency Response Systems
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 PERS systems.

PERS Resources:
CareGard
http://www.geindustrial.com/cwc/products/ge-interlogix?pnlid=9&famid=67&catid=1432&id=pers&lang=en_US
General Electric produces the CareGard PERS. See GE’s Web site for a description of products, costs, and services.

Lifeline
http://www.lifelinesys.com/
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
http://medicalalarm.com/
Medical Alarm.com is yet another PERS. Check Web Medical Alarm.com for details and costs.

Medscope
http://www.safetyproductsunlimited.com/medscope.html
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

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Protection Within the Home
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 and treatment.

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 relative. http://www.evercareconnections.com/aarp4/

Crime
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 floods.

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!

Lighting
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.

Emergency Wheels
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.

Bed Safety
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.

Stash medicine
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.

Knox Boxes
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.

Reposition locks
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 control device

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.

Be realistic
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!

General Home Safety Resources
3M Safety-Walk™
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 centers.
(Also see Bathroom Modifications: http://www.infinitec.org/live/homemodifications/bathrooms.htm.)

American Medical I.D.
http://www.americanmedical-id.com/
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
http://www.homedepot.com
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, and hurricanes.

Home Safety Council
http://www.homesafetycouncil.org/resource_center/resourcecenter.aspx
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 more.

MedicAlert
http://www.medicalert.org/home/Homegradient.aspx
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 world.

U.S. Fire Administration
http://www.usfa.fema.gov/safety/
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.

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Note: 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 applications