What can I do to make the patient’s home safe?
Patients with cancer often have health-related problems that make safety important. Side effects from treatment such as weakness, pain, and numbness in legs and feet all can contribute to falls. There is an increased tendency for cancer patients to fall. Most homes are not designed for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Follow the tips below to improve home safety. You might also ask a home healthcare worker to check the home for hazards.
Throughout the house you’ll want to:
- Remove rugs or raised room dividers to prevent falls, and/or secure rugs, door mats, and floor coverings.
- Move furniture to make clear pathways from room to room. • Make sure the phone can be reached easily. Post emergency numbers by the phones.
- Identify potential hazards like dangling cords (phone and light), toxins, and unsteady chairs, and remove them.
- Ensure that stair steps have treads.
- Remove clutter, especially on the floor.
- Remove excess equipment and supplies.
- Make sure the house is well-lit. (Changing light bulbs is a great way for a friend to help!)
- Get assistance devices (cane or walker) if the patient is unsteady and weak.
- Make sure light switches are easy to reach and are at the top and bottom of staircases.
- Check that home's smoke alarms and fire extinguishers work.
- Consider installing a personal emergency response system (to enable your family member or friend to get help with the push of a button).
- Get a fall-monitoring device so the caregiver can be notified when the patient is getting out of bed. This is especially important if the patient is taking multiple medications that make them unsteady, dizzy, or confused such as strong pain medication or sleep-enhancing medication. Consider giving the patient an intercom, baby monitor, or bell, so he or she can get the caregiver’s attention when not in the same room.
- Consider car door framesstraps to help the patient get into and out of a car.
- Assist the patient in getting up from bed or chairs as needed.
- Assure the patient has access to glasses if needed as poor vision may increase their risk of falling.
- Ensure that extra medications are not sitting around for others to accidentally get to.
Hallways & entryways
- If needed, build a ramp for wheelchair access.
- Add nightlights in hallways.
- Install handrails on both sides of stairways and in the halls.
- Place carpet or safety grip on the stairs.
- Consider whether doorways can accommodate a wheelchair or walker
- Make sure the bed is not too high.
- Be sure there is a clear, well-lighted path from the bed to the bathroom.
- Place a phone in the bedroom.
- If the patient is using an assistive device (cane or walker) have one nearby so they can reach it when needed. • Have a call device handy so they can call for help.
- Consider a bedside commode if the patient has difficulty walking to the bathroom, especially at night.
- Make sure that the workplaces are easy to reach.
- Make sure the person can sit down while preparing food or cleaning up.
- Make sure cords are not in pathways.
- Keep rubber gloves available for washing dishes if the patient experiences numbness and tingling in their hands. They may not be able to detect hot temperatures.
- Keep oven gloves available for moving pots on the stove or removing items from the oven.
- Install a raised toilet seat.
- Add grab bars near the toilet and bathtub or shower. Grab bars are needed near the tub and in the shower and to get up and down to the toilet.
- Have a stool or seat in the shower so the patient can sit.
- Use nonskid mats on the bathroom floor and in the bath and shower to prevent falls.
- Install a hand-held shower.
- Check the water faucets for ease of use.
- Check the towel racks and be sure they can support an adult.
- Check the water heater to make sure it's not set too high or too low.
- Check to see if one can get in and out of the tub with ease or if a step stool is needed.
- Gewandter, J. S., Fan, L., Magnuson, A., Mustian, K., Peppone, L., Heckler, C., ... & Mohile, S. G. (2013). Falls and functional impairments in cancer survivors with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN): A University of Rochester CCOP study. Supportive Care in Cancer, 21(7), 2059-2066.
- Huff, C. (2020). Oral chemotherapy: A home safety educational framework for healthcare providers, patients, and caregivers. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 24(1), 22-30. doi: 10.1188/20.CJON.22-30
- Kuriya, M., Yennurajalingam, S., de la Cruz, M. G., Wei, W., Palla, S., & Bruera, E. (2015). Frequency and factors associated with falls in patients with advanced cancer presenting to an outpatient supportive care clinic. Palliative and Supportive Care, 13(02), 223-227.