Questionnaire: How safe is your loved one’s house?

Age and physical and mental decline can turn a loved one’s once familiar surroundings into a veritable deathtrap. The duty of a caregiver is to keep a relative’s home from turning into 112 Ocean Avenue, and this little home safety Q&A session can  provide you with a measuring gauge and help you determine how much work is left to do.



If the answer is no…

All areas

Are lamp, extension, and telephone cords out of the flow of traffic? 

Yes ___ No ___

·         Arrange the furniture so lamps and appliances can be plugged to outlets without extensions.

·         Alternately, place the extension cord on the floor against a wall to prevent people from tripping over it.

·         Move the phone so that the cord will not be in the way of people.

Are cords out from under furniture and rugs or carpeting?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Remove cords from beneath furniture and carpeting.

·         Replace damaged/frayed cords.

Are cords stapled or nailed to walls, base boards, etc.?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Remove nails and staples.

·         Check wires for damage.

·         Tape cords to walls or floors.

Are electrical cords in good condition, i.e., not frayed nor cracked?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Replace damage/frayed cords.

Do extension cords carry more than the proper load indicated in the label on the cord and the appliance? 

Yes ___ No ___

·         Change the cord to a higher rated one or

·         Unplug some appliances if the rating on the cord is exceeded because of the power requirements of one or more appliances.

·         Use an extension cord with enough amp or wattage rating.

·         Check all rugs, runners, and mats.

Are all small rugs and runners slip-proof?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Remove rugs and runners that slide.

·         Use double-faced adhesive carpet tape or rubber matting on the backs of rugs and runners.

·         Buy slip-resistant rugs.

·         Check to see whether the backing in rugs and mats needs to be replaced. 

·         Place rubber matting under rugs.

Telephone areas

Are emergency numbers posted on or near the phone?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Write the phone numbers for the police, fire department, local poison control center, and at least one neighbor in large print and tape them on or near the phone.

Does your loved one have access to a phone if they fall or are in any other situation where they can’t stand and reach the phone?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Keep at least one phone where it would be accessible in an accident that leaves the person unable to stand.

Smoke detectors

Are smoke detectors strategically located?

Yes ___ No ___

·         First of all, buy a smoke detector if you don’t have one.

·         There should be at least one smoke detector on every floor of the house.

·         Read the detector’s instructions for the best locations.

·         Make sure they are placed near bedrooms, on the ceiling or 6 to 12 inches below the ceiling on the wall.

·         Install them away from air vents.

Do smoke detectors work properly?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Check and replace batteries and bulbs per the instructions manual.

·         Vacuum the grillwork.

·         Replace smoke detectors that are beyond repair.

Electrical outlets and switches

Are any outlets and switches inordinately warm or hot to the touch?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Unplug cords from outlets and do not use switches.

·         Get an electrician to check the wiring.

Is all wiring covered by plates?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Add a cover plate to prevent shock hazard from exposed wiring.

Are light bulbs appropriately sized matched for the lamp or fixture?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Replace with a bulb of the correct type and wattage.

·         If unaware of the wattage, use a bulb than does not exceed 60 watts.

Space heaters

Are 3 prong plus heaters being used in a 3-hole outlet or with a properly attached adapter?


Yes ___ No ___

·         Never defeat the grounding feature.

·         If you do not have a 3-hole outlet, use an adapter to connect the heater's 3-prong plug.

·         Make sure the adapter ground wire or tab is attached to the outlet.


Are small stoves and heaters placed where they cannot be knocked over, and away from furnishings and flammable materials?


Yes ___ No ___

·         Relocate heaters away from passageways and flammable materials like curtains, rugs, furniture, etc.


Do you understand the installation and operating of a kerosene heater, a gas heater, or an LP gas heater (if the house has such space heating equipment)?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Use unvented heaters with room doors or windows open.

·         Always use the correct fuel according to the manufacturer.

·         Make sure vented heaters have proper venting.

·         Check venting system regularly.

·         Review the installation and operating instructions.

·         Call the local fire department if you have further questions.  

Emergency exit plan

Is there an emergency exit plan and an alternate emergency exit plan in case of a fire?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Come up with an emergency exit plan.

·         Establish a meeting point outside the house.

·         Rehearse the plan periodically.


Are towels, curtains, and other objects that might catch fire away from the range?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Keep flammable and combustible objects away from range and oven.

·         Remove towels hanging from oven handles.

·         Move towel rack if towels hang close to a burner.

·         Replace or remove curtains that could brush against heat sources.

Do kitchen ventilation systems or range exhausts function properly and are they in use while cooking?


Yes ___ No ___

·         Use ventilation systems or open windows to clear air of vapors and smoke.

Are extension and appliance cords away from the sink or range areas?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Move cords and appliances away from the sink hot surfaces.

·         Move appliances closer to wall outlets or to different outlets so extension cords are not needed.

·         If extensions must be used, install wiring guides so cords will not hang near the sink, range, or working areas.

·         Consider adding new outlets with ground fault circuit interrupters to protect against electric shock.

Is there good, even lighting over the stove, sink, and countertop work areas?


Yes ___ No ___

·         Open curtains and blinds to improve lighting and prevent cuts or burns.

·         Use the maximum wattage bulbs allowed by the fixture.

·         Use frosted bulbs, indirect lighting, shades or globes on light fixtures, or partially close blinds of curtains to reduce glare.

·         Install additional fixtures under cabinet/over countertop lighting.

Is there a step stool that is stable and in good repair?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Buy a step stool to avoid standing on chairs or boxes.

·         Make sure the step stool is fully opened and stable before climbing on it.

·         Tighten screws and braces on step stool.

·         Dispose of step stools with broken parts.

Living room

Are chimneys clear from accumulations of leaves, and other debris that can clog them and cause a poorly-burning fire resulting in noxious fumes and smoke coming back into the house?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Remove the blockage before using the chimney.


Has the chimney been cleaned in the past year?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Have a registered or licensed professional check and clean the chimney of a tarry substance called creosote that can ignite and cause a fire.


Are hallways, passageways between rooms, and other heavy traffic areas well lighted?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Install night lights.

·         Reduce glare with frosted bulbs, indirect lighting, shades or globes on light fixtures, or partially closing blinds or curtains.

·         Consider using additional lamps or light fixtures.


Are exits and passageways clear?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Rearrange furniture to open passageways and walkways.

·         Remove boxes and clutter.

Bathroom, bathtub, and shower

Are bathtubs and showers equipped with slip-proof mats, abrasive strips, or non-slippery surfaces?


Yes ___ No ___

·         Apply textured strips or appliques on tubs and showers floors.

·         Use skid-proof mats in the tub and shower, and on the bathroom floor.

Do bathtubs and showers have at least one but preferably two grab bars?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Install grab bars, through the tile, to structural supports in the wall, or install bars specifically designed to attach to the sides of the bathtub.

·         Check current bars for strength and stability, and repair if needed.

Is water temperature 120° or lower to prevent scalding?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Lower the setting on the hot water heater to "Low" or 120 degrees.

·         If the water heater does not have a temperature setting, use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water at the tap.

·         Always check water temperature by hand before the person enters bath or shower.

·         Taking baths instead of showers reduces the risk of scalding caused by suddenly changing water temperatures.

Is there a light switch near the bathroom entrance?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Install a night light.

·         Replace the existent switch with a ‘glow in the dark switch,’ preferably near the door to prevent walking into a dark room.

Are hair dryers, shavers, curling irons, etc., unplugged when not in use?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Unplug all small appliances when not in use.

·         Never reach into water to retrieve an appliance that has fallen in without being sure the appliance is unplugged.

·         Install a ground fault circuit interrupter in the bathroom outlet to protect from electric shock.


Are all medications stored in the containers that they came in and clearly marked?


Yes ___ No ___

·         Make sure all containers are clearly marked with the contents, doctor's instructions, expiration date, and patient's name.

·         Discard outdated medicines properly.

·         Request non-child-resistant closures from your pharmacist only if you cannot use child-resistant closures.


Are lamps or light switches within reach of each bed?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Move furniture closer to switches or move lamps closer to beds.

·         Install night lights.

Are ash trays, smoking materials, and other fire sources away from beds or bedding?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Remove heat or flame sources from areas near beds.

·         Ban smoking in bed.

Does anything cover an electric blanket when in use?

Yes ___ No ___

·         ‘Tucking in’ electric blankets or placing additional coverings on top of them can cause excessive heat buildup and start a fire.

Do you avoid ‘tucking in’ the sides or ends of an electric blanket?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Use electric blankets according to the manufacturer's instructions.

·         Don't allow anything on top of the blanket when in use.

·         Don't set electric blankets so high that they could burn someone who falls asleep while they are on.

Does your relative go to sleep with a heating pad turned on?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Make sure the person never goes to sleep with a heating pad turned on, which can cause severe burns even at low settings.

Is there a phone near the bed?

Yes ___ No ___

·         A phone that can be reached without getting out of bed is important in case of an emergency.


Are stairs well lit?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Light stairs so that each step and step edges can be seen clearly when going up or down the stairs.

·         Lighting should not produce glare or shadows along the stairway.

Are there light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Keep an operating flashlight in a convenient location at the top and bottom of the stairs if no other light is available.

·         Install night lights at nearby outlets.

·         Consider installing switches at the top and bottom of the stairs.

Do steps afford secure footing?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Make sure the carpet is firmly attached to the steps all along the stairs.

·         Consider refinishing or replacing worn treads, or replacing worn carpeting.

·         Paint outside steps with paint that has a rough texture, or use abrasive strips.

Are all steps of the same size and height?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Mark any steps that are especially narrow or have risers that are higher or lower than the others.

Are the coverings on the steps in good condition?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Repair coverings.

·         Remove coverings.

·         Replace coverings.

Can the edges of the steps be clearly seen?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Paint the edges of outdoor steps white to see them better at night.

·         Add extra lighting.

·         Avoid deep pile carpeting or patterned or dark colored carpeting that can make it hard to see the edges of the steps clearly.

Is anything stored – even temporarily – on the stairway?

Yes ___ No ___

·         Remove all objects from the stairway.


Related: Home Safety Tips for Caregivers