Preventing Dangerous Falls
By Dr. Marion Somers
Statistically one out of every three people falls. Among older adults falls are the leading cause of loss of energy and deaths states the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. Most falls happen in the bedroom, bathroom or kitchen. These seemingly innocent rooms may actually be the most dangerous. Look at your own environment as though for the first time and evaluate the scene before you with fresh eyes.
In the bathroom, a half inch rise in the floor may seem inconsequential but for someone who has trouble lifting their feet, shuffles or has an uneven gait this could cause them to trip.
Elderly falls at home have long been the silent epidemic that may result hospital or in nursing home placement.
The most dangerous room for falls is the bathroom because of the close confinement and maneuvering between bathtub, shower and toilet. In the bathroom nonskid adhesive textured strips in the tub or shower floor can help prevent falls. Also a plastic shower chair can help ease access in and out of the tub. A raised toilet seat with armrests may provide balance for sitting down or getting up. Handrails in the shower or tub or near the toilet can give assistance in balance and in rising and sitting.
There is also the risk factor of medications that cause dizziness, fatigue, or weakness in any form plus there is the urge to get up at night to relieve oneself. The pathway from the bedroom to the bathroom should be lite sufficiently to allow for safe travels.
Handrails are helpful on steps if they are one step or a full staircase and grab bars on bathroom walls help someone stay balanced while climbing, sitting or standing. There is also the possibility of adding a stair chair that electronically glides up and down the stairs. Also handrails where there are thresholds’ between rooms may need an added handrail for maintaining balance.
The kitchen needs to be well lite with lights under any overhanging cabinet. Do not use slippery floor wax to avoid falls. Keep kitchen items in cabinets at waist high level.
Look at your environment with the thought in mind how your senior will maneuver from one space to another taking into consideration their basic habits, the medications they maybe taking, any sensory losses they may have and their cognitive ability to stay aware and alert. Or look at the space for yourself being twenty or thirty years older than you are now. Simple adjustments can make a world of difference to one’s safety or the safety of those you care about.
Additional safety information can be found in my book Elder Care Made Easier 2 edition. Also within the book, what to look for if someone is in the early stages of losing their physical or cognitive abilities. Planning in advance is the under pinning of safety.