June is National Safety Month, and the National Safety Council (NSC) spends the month educating Americans at work and at home about the dangers all around them. Think you’re not at risk, because you wear your seatbelt, you don’t text and drive, and you chew 21 times before swallowing? You’re only getting started. Why obsess so much over safety? More than 130,000 people die accidentally every year from poisoning, auto collisions, falls and other causes. A woman over 65 in California is just about at equal risk of accidental death from a fall or a medication poisoning, both of which are preventable. Caregivers, loved ones and home care aides need to be aware of the risks so that safety in the home becomes a way of life.

The most likely causes of death, for all of us, are heart disease and cancer, so if you really love roller coasters you don’t have to give them up, since the odds of dying on one are only 1 in 750 million. And in September 2015, we told you all the ways to fall-proof your home. But when it comes to accidents, unintentional poisoning leads the way, with the 52 people who die every day from opioid medication poisoning the main cause. It’s commonly accepted that prescription painkillers are over-prescribed, so chances are good that a medicine cabinet you have access to contains one or more bottles of opioids. The best way to avoid an accident with these painkillers is to refuse the prescription in the first place, and to ask for ibuprofen or another over-the-counter substitute instead. But if you do fill an opiate prescription, here’s how to stay as safe as possible, according to the NSC:

  • Know the dose that fits you, and take as little as you can
  • Follow the instructions about meals, timing, etc
  • Never take more than one medication at a time with the same active ingredient
  • Don’t leave your bottles out or within reach of anyone else’s hands
  • Dispose of them once you’re done, at a local collection site, or the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day (April 30). Don’t flush them!

As unintentional injuries become the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, overtaking strokes in that macabre race for the first time, it’s time for caregivers to get serious about safety. The NSC’s website offers many resources for improving the safety of your loved one’s environment and habits. They’re also hosting a webinar on June 14 at 9am Pacific where caregivers and home care aides can learn to make better safety-conscious decisions. And get your own Personal Safety Snapshot so you know what’s coming!