It seems like home should be the safest place on earth, but that is where most accidents and injuries occur. In fact, the home is the second most common location of unintentional fatal injuries. (Traveling via motor vehicles is number one.) Adults 65 and over are the highest risk groups for home injury, both fatal and nonfatal.
As we age, our senses of sight, touch, hearing and smell tend to decline. Our physical abilities are reduced and certain tasks such as stretching, lifting, and bending become more difficult. In addition, we also experience a slowing of judgment and reaction time. As a result we cannot respond as quickly as when we were younger. These normal changes in perception, physical abilities and judgment make us more prone to accidents. But the truth is, most accidents could be prevented if a few precautions are taken. Simple precautions and adjustments can help ensure a safe, accident-free home. Fortunately, there are some ways to make your home safer. The first is to conduct a home safety walk-through to identify potential slipping, tripping and falling hazards. Below are additional precautionary measures you can take:
- Have bright lights over stairs, steps and on landings.
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairs and steps. Make sure handrails go from the top to the bottom of the stairs.
- Use a ladder for climbing instead of a stool or furniture.
- Tape small rugs to the floor, or remove them entirely.
- Keep stairs clear of debris.
- Have nightlights placed in the bedrooms, hallways and bathrooms.
- Use a mat or non-slip strips in the tub and shower. Have a non-skid bottom on your bathroom rug or mat.
- Install grab bars in the tub and shower.
- Wipe up spills when they happen.
- Outdoors, fix broken or chipped steps on walkways.
- Remove clutter.
As you grow older, the consequences of a fall become more serious. Broken bones often result and may lead to lifelong disabilities. Even when you fall and don’t get hurt, the fear of falling again can limit the way you live your life. To minimize this from happening, there are other precautions you can take, including:
- Take care of medical problems.
- Have your vision checked.
- Check with your doctor regarding possible medication interaction which may affect your balance.
- Take medication as prescribed.
- Exercise regularly to help improve strength and balance.
- Take care of your feet.
- Use a cane, walker or other device.
In dealing with any home safety issues it is of the utmost importance to have a plan in place. Florida residents know the importance of developing an evacuation plan for their family during hurricane season. You need to also have the same type of plan in place for other safety issues too. For instance, an escape plan in case of fire; emergency numbers posted in case of poisoning, electrocution, choking and drowning. Discuss and plan them with your family annually. It is always better to be safe than sorry!
When it comes to slip and fall issues, fall prevention should be discussed with a qualified professional before attempting to install safety equipment or to change in any way the home of an elderly parent. There are local safety specialists that can help with issues of safety for your senior. Ask your VNA nurse or health care provider for more information on fall prevention programs.
Since 1975, the VNA has been committed to bringing skilled, compassionate and cost-effective home health care to Indian River County patients. For more information about VNA services, call 772.567.5551 or visit www.vnatc.com.