I live alone can be both freeing and challenging. With such independence, you’re able to do everything from sprawling out on the entire bed to making pancakes at midnight. At the same time, it’s not always fun and games. Living alone also means that if unfortunate situations arise—ones that could potentially jeopardize your health and safety—you’re on your own. By being as prepared as possible, you can avoid and handle such encounters.
Here are four tips to staying safe if you (or someone you know) I live alone.
1. Create an environment that doesn’t temp burglars
Some people think leaving their door unlocked is fine because they’re just going around the corner to purchase milk. However, a would-be robber doesn’t know whether you’ll be back in 10 minutes or 10 days. It also doesn’t matter if you live alone in a so-called “good neighborhood”—avoiding assumptions like “it won’t happen in my neck of the woods” is vital, as a person who is up to no goodwill think nothing of entering your house and potentially putting you in harm’s way in a confrontation.
In addition to keeping doors locked, keep valuable items out of sight. Excessive displays of massive flat-screen TVs, recognizable designer décor and even things that give off a high-end appearance can convey wealth, suggesting that your house is the perfect place for a burglar. Consider placing your television along a wall that’s not in a direct line of sight with the main living room window. Put jewelry, wallets or pocketbooks away from windows, and instead keep them stored in safes, closets or on a hook inside the room.
If possible, go so far as to have a professional security system installed. Researchers found that 84% of burglars said they would not enter a home equipped with such a system.
2. Know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself
According to the Mayo Clinic, when a person who is by themselves starts choking then they should first call 911. Even though you’re likely unable to speak (or speak well), the fact that you’ve placed the call in the first place alerts emergency personnel that there’s a problem, which they’re required to assess. They’ll arrive at the location seen on their caller ID and offer assistance.
In the meantime, the Mayo Clinic suggests that you should take measures to help yourself. Simply make a fist and place it just above your belly button. With your other hand, grasp your fist and bend over a hard surface. Next, shove your fist in an upward, repeating the movements until the obstruction is free and you stop choking.
3. Learn what to do if you accidentally cut yourself
Many find the sight of blood bothersome, even more so if it’s coming from their own body. Living alone, you can’t get a family member to tend to your wound—you’ll have to take a deep breath and force yourself to do whatever it takes to get your cut under control.
Apply firm pressure to the area with a paper or dish towel, and then hold it above your heart for about 15 minutes. The bleeding should have stopped by then (give or take a few minutes). Next, apply an antibiotic ointment, and then cover with an adhesive bandage. Of course, you should call 911 if you are bleeding profusely or if the cut is extremely deep and you think you may need stitches.
Alone or not, it’s always wise to have a first aid kit containing at least the basics needed in the event of a minor emergency. Adhesive bandages, gauze, and peroxide are some go-to items to include.
4. Pay attention to your feet
No, this has nothing to do with pedicures or fancy footwear, but rather the fact that the most common cause of non-fatal injury involves falling down while at home.
To avoid a broken leg or hip (or just a nasty sprain), make sure that what’s on and under your feet keep you away from such mishaps. This means only going up and downstairs in proper shoes. Sorry, flip-flop lovers, but they don’t count since they don’t provide adequate foot stability and can easily lead to a twisted ankle—or worse! Make sure you always have good traction wherever you walk; slippers, socks, and stockings on bare carpet or slick hardwood floors are a recipe for disaster.
Paying attention to your feet is also important while you’re in the shower. Something as simple as a shower mat helps to ensure that slips in the tub are minimized. Consider it a buffer between your body and a slippery, sudsy surface.
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While these tips are beneficial for people in any living situation, they’re especially helpful for those living alone, since they aren’t able to obtain immediate help. Plus, it’s easy to get caught up in a comfortable routine when living alone—one that includes going downstairs in socks or just tossing a purse on a hook near the front door. However, they’re habits that can create problems. Stay safe and out of harm’s way with these tips so that you can live alone with the peace of mind and good health you deserve.