Home and safety tips
Prior to returning home from the hospital after sustaining a brain injury, it is best to have a trained professional such as an occupational therapist, evaluate the home environment for safety.
The following suggestions may seem to be common sense but they are critical in the home of an individual whom has recently sustained a brain injury. The survivor may be experiencing problems with perception, balance, awareness, any of his senses, as well as judgment and reasoning. The survivor may not realize how much he has changed. The purpose of this information is to prevent unnecessary secondary injuries. An individual who has sustained a brain injury is at a greater risk for further injury. Therefore, a partial list of suggestions is provided, but should replace a through evaluation of the home environment.
- Electric cords should run along the baseboards or behind furniture. Extension cords should not be used unless absolutely necessary and should be out of the way to prevent tripping over them.
- Emergency phone numbers should be posted on or near the phone; they should be large enough and bright enough for the survivor to see. Phones should be in easy reach of the survivor.
- Smoke alarms are needed throughout the house, doubly so if the survivor is a smoker. Short-term memory impairment is one of the most common consequences of brain injury. The survivor may not remember that he has a lit cigarette and just walk away from it.
- Kitchen activities may require close supervision to avoid the possibility of unintentional fires on the stove or in the oven.
- Stepping stools should be removed from the kitchen. The survivor may have balance and/or coordination problems that make it unsafe to be climbing onto a stool.
- Rugs that are not securely anchored or do not have non-skid backing should be removed to limit potential falls.
- Stairs and other high traffic areas should be free of clutter. Remove unnecessary or unsteady furniture and other items that may be obstacles for the survivor who is experiencing balance, gait, or walking difficulties.
- Secure handrails are needed on stairs.
- Tubs and showers should have a non-skid surface.
- Grab-bars in showers, tubs, or beside toilets may be needed.
- A portable tub or shower chair provides a stable, safe platform for bathing. These can be easily removed when other members of the family wish to use the bath.
- Hot water temperatures can be problematic. Adjust the temperature setting on the hot water heater to “low” or 120 degrees to prevent scalding.
- Provide adequate lighting in halls, stairs, and wherever one works or reads.
- Lock up all tools that are not used safely. Lawn mowers, trimmers and barbeques require careful supervision and should not be used until a competent individual assesses the safety capabilities of both the tool and the user. An occupational therapist may be needed to help you with this task.