October 20th, 2010 at 2:12 am
Bookmark and Share

Home Safety: What is Your Address?

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Here is something we all need to check out. How visible are the numbers of our house address? Can they be seen easily? What if there is an emergency? I would say at least a couple of times a month, when I get a new referral, I cannot tell which is the correct house. The mailbox has a missing number, or there are several houses together and you cannot tell which mailbox goes with my new patient’s house, and there are no numbers on the house itself.

Decades ago this was a real challenge. Now I can usually call from my cell phone and verify the address with the person. But not always. Sometimes the person is hard of hearing and does not hear the phone, or they cannot get to it. Perhaps they are a fall risk. Sometimes they are bed bound and do not answer the phone. The caregiver may be hard of hearing and does not hear the phone ringing.

Then there are times when the person with dementia has been left alone while the caregiver is running an errand. Sometimes the person is confused, and cannot tell which button needs to be used to end the call, if it is remembered at all. I had one patient who we taught what to do and marked the “end the call” button for easy identification. Otherwise, during the day you would get a busy signal because the phone was off the hook. Believe me, with over thirty years of home health care experience, the list is of frustrations is actually much longer. A person’s safety needs to be assessed.

Who really notices something like visible house numbers? Perhaps the family lives out of town and has not visited recently. Maybe, like most of us, friends and family run on automatic pilot and it never crosses their mind. It was just part of the regular landscape and went unnoticed.

One of my recent patients had hired a caregiver for a few hours a day. My patient lived in a lovely neighborhood She had significant dementia, but basically was at the stage where she did not see that her memory loss left her at great risk. She did not want the caregiver, but the family insisted she have one while they figured out the next step in their plan.

In the meantime, we were able to convince her that she also needed an emergency response system. I mentioned to the family during my first visit that the house number was now blocked by a tree and difficult to see. This could create a delay in getting her the needed help in an emergency. The house numbers were on one side of the mailbox, but not on the other. The family understood the urgency and made sure that the house numbers on the house were easily seen, used a porch light at night, and the mailbox had a full set of numbers on either side within a few days.

Perhaps this is something we might want to put on our “radar” screen. After making sure our own house numbers are readily visible, maybe we can be more vigilant for those we know with health concerns and less mobility, whatever their age. If they are going to have some health care professionals or handymen assisting with modifications after coming home from rehab or the hospital, it is unlikely that a missing number will even be noticed. Many of them would probably be grateful if someone could make sure the need is mentioned.

“Safety doesn’t happen by accident.” Author Unknown

Posted in Caring At Home, In-home Care, Support | 2 Comments »

2 Comments to “Home Safety: What is Your Address?”

  1. Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

    Thank you for sharing this helpful information. They are all excellent ideas and I have also had some success with special requests, particularly in a smaller community.
    It is certainly important to have more people aware of ways to maximize community resources. Thank you for the work you do. All the best ~ Kathryn

  2. Gertrude S

    I would take this a step further, and speak with the local fire-rescue chief. Some towns have formal registrations for this, and in others it’s just a matter of raising awareness.

    For one client who was on a vent, I alerted the local fire rescue of the situation, and the supervisory even said he would include a back-up vent on the truck as part of their equipment.

    This registration or notification is especially helpful in areas with apartments or condos, or in seasonal areas with many vacant houses or apartments. The fire-rescue may have a lot of units in their jurisdiction, many of which might be vacant. In an emergency they will know to check your client’s unit first.

    Gertrude, CNA

Leave a Reply