How To Prevent Falls in the Home of Elders
You may be only a step away from becoming a victim of the leading cause of unintentional home injuries-falls. The Home Safety Council reports, that nearly 5.1 million Americans are injured each year as a result from falls in and around the home. While people of every age are vulnerable to falls, older adults are particularly at risk. However, there are a number of steps that older adults can take to identify and correct potential falls hazards in and around the home.
According to the Home Safety Council’s study, The State of Home Safety in America report 2004, falls are the leading cause of unintentional home injury and related death for older adults. In fact, falls account for an average of nearly 5,000 deaths each year for people ages 65 and older. It is important to invest a little time in a home safety walk-through to find and fix hazards. Taking “safe steps” will not only protect you, but your entire family from falls injuries. In addition to making safety changes within the home, older adults must also maintain a healthy level of physical activity and carefully monitor medications to minimize the risk of suffering a serious fall-related injury.
The Home Safety Council has developed the national Safe Steps program designed to educate older adults and their family members on how to reduce their risk of falling dangers. The national program promotes preventative low cost solutions and simple behavioral changes to enhance personal safety and independence. The Safe Steps curriculum includes an instructional video, educational wall poster, and activities that can help track medications, exercise and assess overall home safety. Downloadable materials are available at no cost on the Home Safety Council’s Web site, www.homesafetycouncil.org.
Home Safety “Walk-Through”
What to look for:
All stairs and steps should be protected with a secure banister or hand-rail on each side that extends the full length of the stairs. Make sure stairwells have a bright light at the top and bottom of the stairs.
Make sure all porches, hallways and stairwells are well lit. Use the maximum safe wattage in light fixtures. Maximum wattage is typically posted inside light fixtures.
Use nightlights to help light hallways, stairwells and bathrooms during night-time hours.
Keep stairs, steps, landings and all floors clear. Reduce clutter and safely tuck away telephone and electrical cords out of walkways.
When very young children are present, use safety gates at the tops and bottoms of stairs.
Use a non-slip mat or install adhesive safety strips or decals in bathtubs and showers. If you use a bath mat on the floor, choose one that has a non-skid bottom.
Install grab bars in bath and shower stalls. Do not use towel racks or wall-mounted soap dishes as grab bars; they can easily come loose, causing a fall.
Keep the floor clean. Promptly clean up grease, water and other spills.
If you use throw rugs in your home place them over a rug-liner or choose rugs with non-skid backs to reduce your chance of slipping.
Know that window screens are not strong enough to protect a child from falling out. Install window guards on upper floors, making sure they’re designed to open quickly from the inside in case of fire.
Always practice constant supervision if children are near an open window, and keep cribs and furniture away from windows.
Follow medication dosages closely. Using multiple medications and/or using medications incorrectly may cause dizziness, weakness and other side effects which can lead to a dangerous fall.
When climbing on a ladder is necessary, always stand at or below the highest safe standing level. For a stepladder, the safe standing level is the second rung from the top, and for an extension ladder, it’s the fourth rung from the top.
If you would like to learn more about preventing falls, you can take the Home Safety Council’s online quiz on www.homesafetycouncil.org. The interactive tool features a falls-specific quiz that will assess your level of knowledge in this area and help you learn how to correct potential dangers in your home.
About Home Safety Council
The Home Safety Council (HSC) is the only national nonprofit organization solely dedicated to preventing home-related injuries that result in nearly 20,000 deaths and 21 million medical visits on average each year. Through national programs, partnerships and the support of volunteers, HSC educates people of all ages to keep them safer in and around their homes. The Home Safety Council is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization located in Washington, DC.