Common Household Fall Risks
According to the CDC, the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people who are 65 and older is falls. As we age, there are several factors that contribute to an increased chance of falling. For example, many seniors may experience muscle weakness, their gait may not be as steady as it once was, and vision problems may make it difficult for them to see possible hazards. Fortunately, falls are often largely preventable. The sad reality is that a senior’s home can play a role in fall risk. Factors that may not have been a problem when they were younger, such as stairs or uneven flooring, may now put them in danger.
If you or a loved one is reaching the age where falls can become especially life threatening or damaging, here are a few household issues to consider:
Bathroom hazards. Between having to step to get in and out of the tub and/or shower, the prevalence of water, and slick surfaces such as tile, the bathroom can be a dangerous place for all of us, but especially for seniors with decreased mobility and agility. The CDC recommends making modifications to bathrooms to make them safer for seniors. For example, the organization suggests adding grab rails “inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet.” Also, always clean up any water on the floor right away. And it’s a good idea to add a mat or traction stickers to the bottom of the tub.
Poor lighting. Here’s a problem that’s an easy one to solve. Simply making sure a home is well-lit can make a big difference. If you can easily see where you’re going during the day and at night, you’ll be much safer. The National Safety Council advises placing nightlights throughout the home—in the bathroom, kitchen, and hallways. It also suggests making sure all rooms and stairways are well-lit. In many cases adding lighting can be quite easy, so don’t hesitate to make this important adjustment.
Electrical cords. Do a walk-through of your own or your loved one’s home. Are there telephone or other electrical cords across walkways? If so, as these guidelines on preventing falls suggest, you may want to consider rearranging furniture so that all cords are out of the way. Even if a cord hasn’t posed a problem in the past, as we age we can get tripped up much easier, so it’s best to move anything that could be a possible tripping hazard.
Outdoor walkways. There are dangers outside the home, too. So, don’t forget to look for possible problems you or your loved one might face entering or exiting their house. In its article on fall prevention, MyAgedCare.gov notes that “outside steps which don’t have handrails or are slippery, and uneven footpaths” can pose big problems. Make modifications where necessary to ensure everyone can walk around safely. I highly recommend going through you or your loved one’s home to help make any easy modifications that can keep its inhabitants safe. But in addition to that, remember that one way to ensure you can get around safely is by getting plenty of exercise. As this senior health information explains, there are four types of exercise—aerobic, strength, balance, and flexibility—that can be especially helpful in preventing falls. When you’re fit and healthy, you’ll be able to get around more safely and can avoid problems in the home.
Written by: Vee Cecil, a Kentucky-based wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor. Check out her recently-launched blog. Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.ne