So maybe you have noticed a loved one is having difficulty getting around. They may have had a fall or an “almost” fall. Maybe it is you who is noticing you don’t feel as steady on your feet as you used to be. Or maybe you want to prepare yourself or a loved one for returning home from a hospital stay. You want to do something to help, but you don’t know where to start.
According to the CDC, environmental factors play a part in approximately half of all falls that occur at home. By improving the safety of the home environment you can decrease the risk of falls and injury for yourself and your loved ones. There are some simple things you can do right away to decrease the risk of falls and injury and to make navigating around the home easier.
You cannot avoid objects in your path that you cannot see. Your vision is one of the sensory systems that contribute to your balance. Some people rely on their vision for balance more heavily than others.
A good place to start to improve the lighting in your home is to plug in night lights. Make sure you have good lighting from the place you sleep to the bathroom. It is a good idea to place a lamp close to the bed where it is easy to reach. If this is not feasible, at least have a flashlight with you while you sleep. Another option is to operate any light you plug into an outlet with a remote control using a hand held transmitter and plug-in receiver.
How many throw rugs do you have in your house? How many of you will admit to stumbling over a throw rug? Me! I have; however, I have always been able to catch my balance.
As we age we do not have the same righting reaction so any slight loss of balance can cause us to fall. We tend to drag our feet more as we walk. We may not notice the transition of the flooring from carpet to linoleum. If you use a walker or a cane, the device can easily catch the edge of a rug as you are walking over it causing you to trip and fall.
If you must absolutely have throw rugs in the house, get rugs with a good rubber backing and tape down the edges.
3. Clutter. Get Rid of It!
Clutter = Tripping Hazard. Move furniture to open up narrow pathways. If you use a walker, you should be able to get the walker through all pathways including through doorways and alongside your bed.
4. Cords. Secure Them!
First, there should be no cords in your pathway. Tuck all cords under furniture, along the baseboards. You may need to tape them down and use split tubing or cable hooks to hold several cords together. If you have cords that you just cannot have anywhere else but in your pathway, taping them down is a must!
Cordless telephones are good to have because they are portable and you can carry them with you. If you use a walker, a walker bag is a great place to carry the phone. Make sure you have a phone with you when you go to bed at night. If possible a phone charger next to your bed at night is a good idea so it is next to you and fully charged when you wake up in the morning.
Be aware that telephone cords can also be a tripping hazard.
Keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone.
6. Frequently Used Items. Place within Reach!
Keep cups/dishes/toothbrush/toothpaste that you use everyday out on the counter within easy reach. Are you bending down to get a pair of socks everyday or reaching up to get clothes out of the closet? Store clothes within easy reach. Get a reacher/grabber to help you reach those hard to get items, and get rid of that wobbly old step stool.
7. Home Safety Assessment. Complete One!
You can ask your doctor if you qualify for a physical or occupational therapist to visit your home and perform a thorough home safety assessment and make recommendations. Or you may prefer to complete one on your own. The CDC has published a home fall prevention checklist for older adults you can complete on your own.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. Change is not always easy to accept, but these are just a few easy things you can start with to decrease risk of falls and injury. You can look forward to future blogs with more suggestions on home safety and how to decrease risk of injury and falls.
Happy Day! Helping You Move Forward in Life with Confidence!