Friday, October 14, 2016

Fall Proofing Your House

Guest Post from Max Gottlieb

Falls can happen to anyone at any age. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), one in three adults aged 65 or older experience a fall each year. This statistic may be under-reported since many falls are not serious enough to warrant a doctor’s visit. Since a fall can mark the beginning of more health complications down the road, reducing the risk should be of utmost importance.

There are many ways a person can prevent falls, such as working on balance, increasing physical activity, and taking supplements like calcium or vitamin D (with your doctor's OK) to avoid strengthen bones. One of the most basic ways to stay safe, however, is making sure your house is fall proof.

Bathroom Dangers
The first area we are going to explore is the bathroom. Obviously, water can accumulate on slick surfaces making this area perfect for a slip or a fall. The good news is that there are some simple preventative measures that can be taken. The first step is to make sure the shower door is tightly sealed. This way, water is not leaking or spraying out of the shower onto the bathroom tiles. Of course, when a person gets out of the shower, it is difficult not to take water with you. For this reason, an anti-slip mat outside the shower is recommended. If you have ever seen a restaurant kitchen or a commercial area that tends to get wet, you will notice they cover the ground in rubber anti-slip mats to prevent slips and falls. Anti-slip mats are a good idea for the kitchen as well, since washing dishes can sometimes lead to unintended puddles on the floor.

Inside the Shower
The next area of focus should be inside the shower. Some showers have traction on the bottom to prevent slips and falls. However, if yours doesn’t, you can purchase a shower mat for use inside the shower that replicates an anti-slip surface. For individuals that are unstable on their feet or have issues standing for a long duration, a shower chair along with an extendable shower head is advisable. Even for the most able bodied senior, getting in and out of the shower can pose a risk so grab bars are recommended.

Beyond wet areas being slippery, another major issue is clutter. Clutter can be too much furniture, haphazard electrical cords, boxes, low coffee tables, nightstands, plant stands, or pretty much anything else that obstructs walking. This is especially important for high traffic areas like hallways or bedrooms. First, make sure that all cords are secured out of the way so they pose no risk in the future. Next, reduce the amount of freestanding objects throughout the house and try to eliminate them in the areas where foot traffic occurs. Maybe there are boxes by the couch, or newspapers by the back door—wherever the clutter may be, it’s time to get rid of it.

Let There Be Light
Lastly, and perhaps most overlooked when it comes to eliminating fall-risks, is light. Make sure the entire house is well lit so there are no dark areas. 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 install lighting or add a lamp. At night, leave a nightlight on in the bathroom so no one is stumbling around in the dark during a late-night bathroom trip. Just as with other appliances, make sure the exposed cords are tucked away. The lamps and lighting fixtures should always be within reach, but far enough away from the pathways to be out of the way. You’d be surprise how beneficial better visibility can be.

More Tips for Fall Prevention
Some final tips are making sure that any furniture, including your bed, tables, couches and chairs, are the proper height. A chair that is too close to the ground and a bed that is too high or too low creates unnecessary risk. Make sure to speak with your primary care provider in regards to what other devices or techniques you can utilize to live a safe, healthier life.

Max Gottlieb works with Senior Planning, giving free assistance to seniors and their families. Senior Planning helps with benefits, senior housing, and organizing any necessary care. 

Thanks Max for a great article!