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Safety checklist: Bedroom


Forget the monsters under your childhood bed, your bedroom should be the most comfortable, safest room in the house.

But is it? Does your bedroom pass the test, or are there things more sinister than monsters to possibly trip you up?

1.  Think Goldilocks: Is your bed too tall or too low?

A bed that is too low is hard to get into and out of; college students have long used leg extenders to raise dorm beds to make space for under-bed storage, but extenders available at The Container Store and other department stores can raise your bed to "comfort" height.

A bed that is too tall can actually be hazardous. Hotel room chic aside, if you have to climb steps, or take a running leap, to get into bed, you are asking for a fall.

People with a deteriorating physical condition may want to consider exchanging a standard bed for a hospital bed (one brand is Flex-a-Bed), which can be raised and lowered for easier transferring (a back-saver for future caregivers), and couples who can afford them might well opt for a split-mattress adjustable bed, such as those from Tempur-Pedic or Sleep Comfort.

2.  Is the bedstead friendly?

VistaBed2Platform beds may be trendy, but those sharp wooden corners protruding from beneath the mattress could put a dent in your shins, if not send you sprawling in the dark.  You don't have to forgo the simple lines of contemporary sleeping platform with soft-sided bedstead such as cantilevered bedstead seen above or Altura Furniture's Vista Bed with upholstered rails (at right, available from DeSousa Hughes showroom in the San Francisco Design Center).

On the other hand, we've heard horror stories of people tripping the dark and putting an eye out on the end post of a traditional bed.

bedspread You don't have to give up the platform or the four-poster, but you can devise ways to lessen the blows (a little padding here and there?) -- and chuck the puddle-draped bedspread, such as the one seen at right, in favor of a tucked-in coverlet or duvet.

3.  Is there good bedside lighting within easy reach, with touch control?

Lights that can be turned on and off from the bed, such as those seen above, not only control the childhood monsters beneath but the innocent clutter that can turn to an adult's monsters in the dark.

4.  Is there a phone within easy reach of the bed?

nightstand (2) 5.  Is the bedside table sturdy, and steady enough, that one can use it to assist in getting into or out of bed without it tipping over?

They're not easy to find, but a night table with rounded corners can reduce the risks from falls in the night. And, because no one of any age wants his bedroom to look like a hospital room, a nightstand with drawers, such as the traditional bedside chest seen above that features a hidden top drawer and three lower drawers, will allow you to keep your nighttime pills and medical supplies, such as a blood pressure cuff or CPAP machine, out of sight during the day.

We're not advocating always using a night table as a mobility assist. If you normally need help getting up, consider installing a handrail or vertical pole next to the bed. They're available online.

Beckmann Chair  6.  Is there a chair with arms to use while dressing?

It's not easy to put on your shoes while sitting on the side of the bed, but many people don't have a sturdy chair to use while dressing. A bench at the foot of the bed that holds the bedspread and extra pillows during the night, will do if it's as tall as a chair -- but a seat with arms, such as the Scandinavian-inspired chair upholstered in Barbara Beckmann's platinum 'Forest Preserve' silk fabric (at right) is better -- and more beautiful.

If you have space, consider adding a valet next to the chair on which to set out tomorrow morning's clothes -- or to drop today's worn clothes onto so they're not strewn over the floor overnight.

bedside controls 7. Are window coverings easy to operate?

The buttons at right operate bedroom draperies, the switches next to them operate the bedroom's lights, while the bedside reading lamp is wall-mounted and therefore not taking up space on the night table. The headboard itself is mounted on the wall, allowing the bed to be moved or replaced without having to dismantle heavy furniture.

8. Are there nightlights to guide you in the dark?

Wired-in photo-sensitive baseboard lights that come on at dusk are great, but if you have outlets in appropriate locations, plug-in night lights work fine -- at a fraction of the cost.

9. Are closet rods adjustable, or easy to reach?

10. Is there a light in the closet?

For more complete home safety check lists, click on the following links:

"Safe at Home Checklist" from Rebuilding Together, along with the Administration on Aging and the American Occupational Therapy Association

 "Preventing Falls at Home" brochure with an easy-to-follow checklist from the Administration on Aging

"The AARP Home Fit Guide: Information and Tips to Keep Your Home in Top Form for Comfort, Safety, and Livability" booklet includes checklists on home maintenance and energy efficiency, as well as livability evaluations and recommendations for fixing problems and how to get professional help

CAPS directory of Certified Aging in Place Specialists from the National Association of Home Builders