Even in the home, where you’d think that we’d be as safe as possible, independent disabled people or those being cared for, need to be aware of some of the more frequent domestic dangers. Whilst nobody can legislate for all eventualities, there are some sound general points that are worth considering.
It’s fair to say that the things that are dangerous to disabled people are largely dangerous to everybody else. Perhaps the only difference is people’s ability to spot them or respond in certain ways, meaning that people’s physical frailty, sensory impairments or aptitude need to be considered when you’re thinking about domestic safety.
If there are three golden rules for carers of disabled people, they are:
Learn about the speciﬁcs of the disability that affects the person you care for. There may be speciﬁc dangers associated with any sensory impairment – such as not being able to hear an alarm or physical dangers such as reduced dexterity or even allergies.
Discuss dangers with people you care for and offer safety advice. Have a plan of action prepared for if things go wrong.
Realise that over time disability can change. Symptoms can become more severe and new challenges can emerge. Make sure you keep up.
There are also very general tips to consider for around the home…
The person you care for may live independently of you but you can still make sure that their home is as safe as possible.
Anything that needs to be plugged in should be checked to make sure that it works properly. Broken equipment should be removed for repair or replacement. Make sure that gas and electricity systems are working properly and are regularly serviced.
Smoke alarms and ideally carbon monoxide alarms are a must in any home. Alarms that signal with a light and vibration may be better in a home where there is a person who cannot hear.
People with reduced dexterity or strength can struggle with tasks relating to lifting and handling objects. They could be at risk of injury through dropping an object, pulling or straining muscles. Some disabled people may not be able to judge how heavy or otherwise dangerous lifting an item might be – and in some cases, after the event may not realise that they’ve hurt themselves at all.
Sometimes the position of items on either high or low shelves can be problematic.
Jobs such as pouring a hot drink from a boiled kettle can pose obvious dangers. Fortunately, there are a range of adapted utensils designed to make domestic chores easier and safer, such as kettle tipping devices and devices that cut and chop food.
Bathrooms can be wet and slippery so it’s important that efforts are made to mitigate falls or other accidents. Grab rails are a simple solution.
Flooring is also worth considering. A suitable ﬂoor covering should provide some grip whilst remaining easy to clean. Carpets are not altogether suitable for bathrooms since they can hold damp and bacteria which is bad news for people with immune deﬁciency – and they don’t help wheelchair users. (Similarly, an extractor fan is good for refreshing the air, without the need to open and close windows.)
The humble bath mat can be used to provide grip when feet are wet post-bathing – and a rubber bath mat for inside a bath or shower cubicle can also help.
Stick with what you know and try new things slowly and carefully. Lots of people have food allergies and some don’t even realise it until they are triggered for the ﬁrst time. With this in mind, eating familiar foods and brands is sensible since food allergies can be very serious indeed. If a person starts to itch in their mouth they need to stop eating immediately and drink plenty of cold water. If swelling of the face starts to occur it’s time to call 999 and request an emergency ambulance.
People with known allergies should have a stock of antihistamine or an Epi-Pen (Epinephrine autoinjector) if prescribed by a doctor. (Carers should learn how to use the autoinjector in case the person they care for can’t activate it themselves.)