The following is a guest post by Max Gottlieb from Senior Planning.
If you’ve ever had a relative who has fallen, then you know just how important it is to avoid falls at any cost.
A fall oftentimes means the beginning of someone’s journey into death. Both of my grandparents, who were otherwise healthy, fell and within three months passed away. My grandfather, recovering from a hospital stay, rolled off of his bed and all the progress of his recovery quickly vanished. Unfortunately, with a fall like this, there is not much you can do to prevent it unless the older person wants to put rails on their bed, similar to a top bunk on a bunk bed. For most people, this is unrealistic. My grandma’s fall, however, could have been prevented.
My grandmother insisted on living alone well past the age deemed safe for her to do so and on top of that, owned a two story house. Her carpet was worn thin on the steps, resulting in her foot catching under a piece and her tumbling down four steps. This could have been prevented if her steps had been fall-proofed or if someone had moved her things downstairs for her. Since falls are unexpected most people don’t think about preventative measures until after the fact. Here are five quick steps to ensure a safer home.
Doorsills and steps:
Doorsills and steps are one of the leading causes of people tripping and falling. If your loved one’s house has a raised door sill make sure they are painted a different color or have reflective tape on them. This allows people to see they are there because as we get older, habit tends to make us forget. This goes for the edge of steps as well. Check to see if there is loose carpeting as in my grandmother’s case, unstable wood, or erosion of any sort on or around the steps. Furthermore, light the area as much as possible to eliminate shadows and minimize risk. Light can play a big part in making a house safer. Long hallways, the base/tops of stairs, and turns should all have outlet sized nightlights at the very least.
Furniture, accessories, and narrow pathways:
This might seem obvious but you’d be surprised. Double-check to make sure all the pathways in the house are completely free of furniture and non-essential items. No books, records, or newspapers should be left on the floor near couches, reading chairs, or other furniture. Anything that could snag a foot should be removed. Beyond things being on the floor, make sure there is adequate room between couches, chairs, tables, etc. Also, make sure the chairs and couches are at the right height. If they are too high or too low, a struggle to get up can occur which increases a risk of falling.
I know I mentioned it before, but lighting is one of the easiest fixes and one of the most important. This means that you should be using at least a 60-watt bulb wherever there is a lamp or light fixture. Check for areas in the house that aren’t lit and add a lamp to the area. Lamps aren’t expensive so there’s no excuse. The one thing to watch out for with added lamps though, is any exposed power cord. Either tape them down or tuck the cords out of the way. The lamps and lighting fixtures should always be within reach, but far enough away from walkways to be out of the way.
This is another easy fix, especially with today’s technology. If using a landline telephone, make sure there is a telephone in each room within reach. This way you or your loved one won’t have to rush to get the ringing phone. Standing up too quickly can cause light-headedness or dizziness, causing the individual to lose focus of their surroundings. This can cause a fall within an area of the house that otherwise would have never happened. Also, if your loved one does happen to fall, telephones within reach can help them contact someone quickly. I’ve heard stories of people remaining on the ground for hours because no one knew they had fallen. A medical alert is a necessity if you think your loved one is at risk of falling because they can press it anytime to alert authorities and emergency contacts.
Fall-proofing bathrooms is a must! Water on hard surfaces in the bathroom can cause them to become very slippery. It’s important to have anti-slip mats to assist with getting in and out of the tub/shower. Walk-in showers are ideal, but if a walk-in shower isn’t an option, metal grab bars inside and outside of the bathtub will reduce the risk of an accident. If you know the shower area gets wet, make sure to keep a towel nearby to dry the floor and step out onto after bathing.
These simple steps are just a start to minimizing falls. Hopefully, once you do these, you’ll see other spaces in the house that need attention. Exercise, properly medicating, dieting, and awareness of your surroundings are all important aspects in reducing the risk of a fall.
Max Gottlieb is the content manager of Senior Planning in Phoenix Arizona. Senior Planning has helped many seniors and their families navigate the long-term care process. This includes assistance to seniors and the disabled, finding and arranging care services, and applying for state and federal benefits.
TeddyCan would like to thank Max Gottlieb for submitting this enlightening article on safety for your elderly loved ones! There is no such thing as being too safe, and with a lot of our readers being caregivers, it’s important that this information is available. If you have any more tips for keeping the house safe for our seniors, comment below.
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