Thursday, September 3, 2009

Get RID of the Throw Rugs!

I can almost guarantee you that one of the first things the home health nurse or physical therapist will encounter and discuss with you and or your elders is those throw rugs!

While they can be pretty especially if they are of the expensive persian rug variety; they can be one of the most dangerous hazards in the house. Yes, they cover a variety of mishaps or old and worn carpets, but they can also present a trip waiting to happen and I don't mean a vacation!

Most older people shuffle their feet when they walk. They may have spent a lifetime telling you to "pick up your feet," but now they have the shuffle themselves. This can feel like a safe gait and many times it can be, but it can also cause them to trip over cords, oxygen tubing and throw rugs.

A fall can result in a broken hip, broken wrist, ribs, or even more serious injury such as a head injury from hitting an object or the ground. I don't have the statistics at my fingertips, but hip fractures result in a huge number of deaths each year. This is often as a result of the surgery necessary to repair or replace the hip or from complications afterwards such as pneumonia.

Even a broken wrist which can seem like a much less harmful injury can be devastating for an older person. Just imagine yourself with an arm immobilized. Can you get yourself dressed, groomed, bathed, or even wiped after using the toilet? Compound this with the many other disabilities your elders may have and you can have a real disaster on your hands.

Go through the house with your elders and clear the pathways of clutter, cords, and throw rugs. If they need long extensions of oxygen tubing consult with the respiratory therapist from the vendor company and see what options can be set up. Perhaps some lengths of tubing can be safely placed permanently and quick-connect adapters used as they move about the house as opposed to dragging long lengths of tubing everywhere. There may be some expense ibvolved, but it can be far less costly than dealing with an injury from a fall.

photo: Herman Brinkman/

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