By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: My mother lives all alone in her home of 50 years, and I'm growing more worried about her safety all the time. Is there anything I can do? Suzie in Idaho, 43

ANSWER: One of the first things I do after meeting a new client is visit the home and eliminate all potential hazards so the environment is safer. No matter how clean or organized they may be there are almost always safety or hygiene issues that need to be addressed. Many elderly are victims of accidents in their own homes, and most of these accidents can be avoided with a few common sense steps.

Five of the most basic steps include tossing away any throw rugs, affixing non-slip surfaces on the bathtub floor, making sure all smoke detectors are in perfect working condition, removing as much clutter as possible, and increasing the wattage of all lighting.

A more recent trend has emerged ? elder fraud over the phone. I make sure that all of my clients know to never give out any vital information to someone they don't know. This includes a Social Security number, bank account numbers, driver's license, and pin numbers. It seems that ever since the dawn of the Internet age, ID theft of the elderly has become more of a problem. Unfortunately, the elderly generation responds very readily to authority, so they are more likely to respond to the various elder fraud tactics that are out there.

It's also important that your elder be prepared for emergencies. At a minimum, I work from a check list that includes a back up generator, extra oxygen, sanitary supplies, medications, signed prescriptions from the doctor, food, water, flash lights, batteries, battery operated radio, hand-held can opener, small camping blanket, and plastic raincoat or poncho. I also suggest keeping a back pack for each member of the household, and have it ready to go at a moment's notice.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.