Safe At Home

Safe At HomeMost Ohioans would prefer to stay in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. With meaningful opportunities to engage with their communities, older Ohioans can live happier, healthier lives and contribute in meaningful ways. A safe home is crucial to give our elders these opportunities.

However, as we age, our physical and social needs can change, and our homes that have kept us safe for so long may no longer be appropriate for our current situation. Sometimes, only minor changes are needed to make your home safe again.

On this page, you'll find a variety of resources and different types of information to help you or your older loved one remain "safe at home." Your area agency on aging is a great source of information for local services and resources.

Home Maintenance, Repair, and Modification

Home maintenance, repair and modification services help older Ohioans preserve existing property values and make structural modifications or repairs necessary to help them live safely.

  • Home maintenance includes a variety of critical routine services, such as inspecting furnaces and water heaters, fixing or replacing torn window screens or broken panes, or replacing electrical fuses.
  • Home repairs include repair or installation of heating and air conditioning equipment; minor plumbing or electrical repair; repair or replacement of gutters, shingles, flashing or other roofing; and repairs to eliminate holes or other hazards in flooring or stairs.
  • Home modification makes the physical environment more functional and accessible, enabling people with disabilities to perform daily activities with greater independence. Examples include building ramps, widening doorways, installing grab bars and other assistive devices.

Funding for these services comes from a combination of public and private funding and local resources. Work is provided by licensed contractors and others. Contact your area agency on aging for more information about the services available in your community.

Utility Assistance

Home energy costs particularly affects Ohioans on fixed or low incomes. The Department of Aging partners with the Ohio Development Services Agency, the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to provide programs and information to help eligible older Ohioans meet the rising cost of energy.

Energy Assistance Programs sponsored by the Ohio Development Services Agency help low-income Ohioans of all ages deal with the high costs of heating or cooling their homes.

  • Home Energy Assistance Program - HEAP helps low-income Ohioans of all ages pay heating and cooling bills.
  • Emergency HEAP - Emergency HEAP assists households that have had their utilities disconnected, face disconnection, or that have a 10-day supply (or less) of bulk fuel.
  • Percentage of Income Payment Plan - PIPP is an extended payment plan for qualifying customers that requires regulated gas and electric companies to accept payments based on a percentage of household income.
  • Home Weatherization Assistance Program - HWAP helps qualifying low-income homeowners and renters reduce energy consumption while increasing the comfort of their homes.

For more information on these programs, call toll-free 1-800-282-0880, visit the HEAP page at the Ohio Development Services Agency, or contact your area agency on aging.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio can answer consumer's questions and help resolve issues with providers of electric, natural gas, telephone, water, or household moving services. They offer the Lifeline Telephone Assistance Program to help make basic local telephone service more affordable for income-eligible Ohioans, as well as the Apples to Apples comparison tool to get the most out of energy choice programs, and much more. Call the consumer help line at 1-800-686-7826.

Emergency Preparedness

For a variety of reasons, older friends and relatives may have a harder time adjusting during emergencies and extreme conditions than younger people do. Be prepared with an emergency plan and kit and check in on older loved ones and neighbors during severe weather and other emergencies.

Have a plan that will allow you to remain in place for at least three days should you be unable to leave your home due to weather conditions or other emergencies:

  • Emergency Supplies - Create an emergency kit that contains: a battery operated radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, a signaling device (such as a loud whistle, horn or bell), food that you can open and prepare easily, water (one gallon per person per day), extra blankets and a first aid kit. Make sure you have access to a phone that will work if the electricity goes out.
  • Medications - Keep a backup supply of the medications you take every day (check expiration dates every couple of months and replace if necessary). Ask your doctors for extra copies of your prescriptions for your emergency kit. Have an ice chest on hand and keep ice packs in the freezer for medications that need to be kept cool. Keep a backup stash of medical supplies such as bandages, alcohol, etc.
  • Equipment and Assistive Devices - Make sure your medical equipment and assistive devices (such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, lifts, oxygen tanks, etc.) are easy to locate in an emergency. Have spare batteries or non-powered options for any equipment that will not work if there is no electricity. Keep written instructions on how to operate and move your medical and adaptive equipment in your kit.
  • Readiness - Know where the main valves and switches are for gas, water and electricity, and make sure you can operate them. Have at least one fire extinguisher and know how to use it. Designate a safe place to go (such as a friend or neighbor's house or shelter) and have a plan for getting there if it becomes unsafe to stay in your home.
  • Reasonable accommodations - Be prepared to quickly explain to rescue personnel how to move you or help you move safely and rapidly (e.g., "take my oxygen tank," "get my insulin from the refrigerator").
  • Safety Net - Ask a reliable family member, friend or neighbor to visit or call you in the event of severe weather or other emergency to make sure you are okay. Agree on a plan for what they should do if they are unable to reach you or find you needing help.

(Adapted from "Emergency Management Be-Prepared Kit," available from the Red Cross)

Check On Your Neighbor in Extreme Weather

If severe weather is forecasted or has just occurred, or if another type of emergency has occurred, check in on older friends and family members to ensure that they are okay and that they have the resources they need to stay safe and healthy.

Do a risk assessment:

  • Does he or she depend on oxygen?
  • Does he or she need help walking?
  • Does he or she need help getting to the bathroom?
  • Has he or she fallen?
  • Does he or she need medical attention?

Check vital supplies:

  • Does he or she have access to clean drinking water?
  • Does he or she have the ability to cook and safely store food?
  • Does he or she have access to healthy, non-perishable food that can be prepared without electricity?
  • Does he or she have adequate means to keep the temperature in the home in a comfortable range?
  • Does he or she have access to an adequate supply of any prescription or over-the-counter medications to maintain his or her health?
  • Can he or she safely store and access his or her medications (some may need to be refrigerated or stored on ice)?

Determine his or her access to help:

  • Does he or she have access to a phone that works, even if the power goes out (cordless phones and voice-over-IP service may not work during a power outage)?
  • If he or she has a cell phone for emergencies, is the phone sufficiently charged?
  • Instead of asking, "do you have someone to call if you need help?" questions such as, "show me how you would call your daughter if you need her to come help" will be more effective.

Occasionally, during extreme situations, an older adult may appear confused or disoriented. Don't assume this is a normal reaction or due to dementia. Conditions such as dehydration, stress and fatigue can have the same symptoms. When assisting someone who appears confused or disoriented:

  • Always treat adults as adults!
  • Be friendly, calm and reassuring. Make eye contact and speak slowly and distinctly. Invite him or her to sit with you and have a conversation.
  • Use positive language. Instead of "Don't go there," say "Let's go here."
  • Ask open-ended questions. Instead of "Do you have enough to eat?" ask "What do you plan on having for breakfast/lunch/dinner?" Ask one question at a time and give time to respond.
  • Avoid challenging questions. Instead of "Do you know where you are?" say "I'm glad that I came to visit you at your home today."
  • Redirect, don't correct. When someone is confused, he or she may think you are someone you aren't. If he or she calls you another name, say "I haven't seen 'Joe,' but my name is _____ and I'm here to help."

Fire Prevention

Older adults are at increased risk for injury or death from home fires. Some simple preventive steps can reduce the risk of a blaze and increase the chances that you or your loved ones will be able to safely escape if a home fire does occur.

Have a plan

  • Have a fire escape plan: Draw a map of each level of your home showing all doors and windows. Plan two ways out of every room.
  • If you share your home with others, go over your plan with them and have an outside meeting place designated.
  • Practice your fire escape plan with a home fire drill at least twice a year.
  • Plan around your abilities: Practice escaping with your wheelchair, walker or cane, if you use one. Keep eyeglasses and hearing aids next to the bed for quick access in an emergency.

Heating Safety

  • Have a professional clean and inspect your chimney and vents every year.
  • Keep anything that can burn (including clothing, blankets, furniture and curtains) at least three feet from heat sources.
  • Turn off heaters and extinguish chimney fires when you leave a room or go to bed - never leave them unattended.
  • If you must use space heaters, choose one that has been tested and certified to the latest safety standards.

Be smart with appliances and cords

  • Don't overload outlets. Plug heat-producing appliances directly into a wall outlet - do not use extension cords or outlet strips for heaters.
  • Only use extension cords temporarily. Have an electrician install additional wall outlets where you need them.
  • If extension cords or electrical cords on appliances and lamps are cracked or damaged, replace the extension cord or appliance. Do not try to repair cords.

Smoke Alarms

  • Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside sleeping areas and on every level of the home.
  • Mount smoke alarms on the ceiling or high on a wall.
  • At least monthly, test your smoke alarms and vacuum dust and cobwebs from your alarms.
  • Know the sound your smoke alarms make and know whether you can hear it at night.
  • Change the battery in your smoke alarms at least once each year and immediately if your alarms start to "chirp."
  • Replace smoke alarms after 10 years.

If you or a loved one needs help to plan for a fire or assistance with smoke alarms, contact your local fire department or area agency on aging, or call the American Red Cross at 1-844-207-4509.

Winter Weather Safety for Older Adults

Winter Weather Safety:


Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation

Elder abuse refers to any knowing, intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult, according to the U.S. Administration for Community Living. It also includes the failure, through action or inaction of the individual of another person, to meet the individual's basic needs fore safety and well-being. Learn more...

Find Services Where You Live


Assistive Technology of Ohio provides access to devices and services to help older adults remain independent in their homes and communities.

Assistive Technology of Ohio is a federally funded nonprofit organization that is part of the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University. AT Ohio helps Ohioans of all ages remain independent as their physical abilities change. Their services include device lending and rental, computer refurbishing, training and more. Devices that can help older adults remain safely and independent in their homes include: Low hearing and vision aides, medication reminder systems, communication devices, dining assistance devices, home automation equipment and more. Call 1-800-784-3425 to learn more.

Recovery Ohio

Start Talking! to your grandchildren about drug abuse.
Take Charge, Ohio! Manage pain and prevent medication abuse.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-8255
Text "4help" to 741741