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Safety Tips

Taking Steps to Care for Your Health and Safety at Home

A woman takes a pill

One of the ways you can make sure you receive the best possible health care is for you and/or your family or caregiver to take an active role as a member of your team of healthcare providers. Feel free to contribute to any decisions being made—and never be afraid to ask questions or express concerns.

Some important areas where you can help ensure your safety and wellbeing are managing your medications, preventing falls, maintaining hand hygiene and preventing infections.

Medication Safety

Know your Medications
  • Make sure you know which medications you are taking and what they are for.
  • Know what your medications look like – the colour and shape.
  • Know how much to take, how often and how long to take your medications.
  • Ask if there are any side effects to your medications and what you should do if you experience them.
It might help to keep a journal with the name and strength of the medications you take and how often you take them. Include on this list both prescription and non-prescription medications.

Ask questions before you accept any medication so you understand what it is and what it’s for. Tell your Care Coordinator if you’re having difficulty managing your medication on your own.

Follow Directions
  • Always use medication as directed by your doctor or pharmacist. This includes when to take it, how often, and for how long.
  • Prepare a schedule of when you should take each medication. The use of a 7 day pill container will also help you know you have taken all your daily medications.
  • You should also know when and under what conditions you should stop using your medication
  • You should know what to do if you miss a dose.
  • Always read the product label and follow the directions closely (e.g., take at bedtime or with meals).
How to Store Medications Safely

  • Always keep products in their original containers.
  • Never combine different medications in the same bottle.
  • Keep products in a cool, dry area, away from the sun (unless the medication must be stored in the refrigerator)
  • All medications must be kept out of the reach of children.
How to Dispose of Medications Safely
At least once a year, go through your medicine cabinet and remove all prescription and non-prescription medications that are expired or that you no longer take. Medications must be disposed of correctly: return them to your pharmacy or to your local waste disposal depot.

Also be sure to contact your healthcare providers immediately about ANY reactions to medications you’ve taken.

Ask questions before you accept any medication so you understand what it is and what it’s for. View the 5 questions you should ask about your medications.

Fall Prevention and Safety

An easy way to prevent falls is to keep your home free of clutter so you can move around safely. Work with your healthcare providers to find the best strategies for walking, standing or transferring between positions. Be sure to tell your Care Coordinator or family doctor if you have any trouble standing up or sitting down. You can also complete the checklist below to ensure your home is free of any hazards. 

If you live alone and have a history of fainting or falls, consider enrolling with an emergency call device. This checklist can help ensure your home is as safe as possible.

What to Do After a Fall… If You CAN Get Up 
The first thing to do is to catch your breath. Check and see if you are injured. Even if you think you're OK, take your time before getting up again. If you are injured, DO NOT try to get up. 

Follow These Five Steps for Getting Up
  1. Lie on your side, bend the leg that is on top and lift yourself onto your elbows or hands.
  2. Pull yourself toward an armchair or another sturdy object, then kneel while placing both hands on the chair or object.
  3. Place your stronger leg in front, holding on to the chair or object.
  4. Stand up.
  5. Very carefully, turn and sit down.
Practice these steps often and be prepared in case you fall. Most of all, stay calm. 

What to Do After a Fall… If You CANNOT Get Up
If you feel any discomfort or are unable to get up, try to get help.
  1. Call out for help if you think you can be heard. 
  2. If you have an emergency call device or telephone at hand, use it. 
  3. If you don't, try to slide yourself towards a telephone. 
  4. Make noise with your cane or another object to attract attention. 
  5. Wait for help in the most comfortable position for you. 
  6. KEEP WARM: If you can, place a pillow under your head and cover yourself with a piece of clothing or a blanket to stay warm. 
  7. Try to move your joints to ease circulation and prevent stiffness. 
When to See a Doctor
Whether you're the victim or the witness of a fall, never underestimate its seriousness. Even if it appears no harm was done, there could be after-effects. 

Here Are Some of the Reasons for Seeing a Doctor:
  • loss of consciousness just before or after the fall
  • injuries
  • a strong or lingering pain
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • overall weakness or unsteadiness
  • headaches
  • vision problems
  • drowsiness
Symptoms may appear in the days that follow a fall. If you fall, take note of your condition. If you witness a fall, take note of the person's condition. 

In some cases, a fall may be the sign of an illness, or it may be caused by medication. It's always better to mention falls to your doctor. He or she can then assess the situation and see if the fall is linked to an illness, prescribed medication or over-the-counter drugs. 

Maintaining Hand Hygiene and Preventing Infections

Proper hand hygiene is the best way to prevent infections. Use soap and water or a 70% alcohol hand rub to wash your hands. It is important to clean your hands properly throughout the day as we handle many things covered in germs like keyboards, light switches, door knobs, and telephones.

Reminders when washing your hands
  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap 
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails 
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice 
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water 
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them 
When to wash your hands:
  • Before and after preparing or eating food
  • After using the washroom 
  • After you cough, sneeze, or use a tissue to wipe your nose
  • And after being in contact with someone who is sick.
Other good tips include:
  • Providing a hand rub sanitizer bottle at your door and making sure family and visitors wash their hands before entering and leaving your home, and before providing care. 
  • Wiping objects like telephones and computer keypads with a sanitizing cloth often.
  • Asking healthcare providers if they have cleaned their hands before attending to you.
  • Coughing into your elbow instead of your hand.

Staying Immunized

Vaccinations are an affordable and effective way of preventing illness. Talk about your immunization needs for diseases like influenza with your family physician.

Keeping the Conversation Going

Usually, the evening before a healthcare provider visits your home, he or she will phone to confirm the visit. Take that opportunity to let them know if you’re feeling unwell and what symptoms you’re experiencing.

Working with your Care Coordinator

Your Care Coordinator is ready to answer your questions or concerns about your care, including ways you can help make your home environment safe and secure. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or advice, even if a question seems basic or simple. Your Care Coordinator can also help connect you with other useful services in your community.