How to Prevent Falls in Older People - Hazards Around the Home.
Hazards Around the Home.
One of the quickest ways that you can reduce your fall risk is to make sure your living environment is as safe as it can be. Most of these suggestions are cheap and easy to undertake but make sure that you don't take any unnecessary risks while carrying them out. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Remember - don't hide the problem - deal with it.
Lighting - Make sure that areas of high risk such as stairs and steps are well illuminated. Use a bright bulb and consider energy saving bulbs that are cheaper to run and last a long time.
Floor Covering - Carpet is a good choice because if you fall, your landing will be softer and if you are lying on the ground, carpet is warmer than hard flooring. Whichever floor covering you have, make sure that it is in good condition. A frayed carpet or one that is lifting at the edges pose a significant trip hazard.
Circulation Routes - These are the routes that you use most frequently to move around your house. Make sure that they are kept free of clutter and that there are no electrical flexes trailing across the floor.
Stairs - Illuminate them well, fix a hand rail on both sides of the stairs so that you can save yourself if you lose your balance, and never leave anything on the stairs 'ready to take up' next time you go. Use a small table or a chair at the foot of the stairs to place things on.
Chairs and Seating - The problem with chairs is actually getting out of them. Use a chair with two arms for leverage and make sure that it is high enough to get out of comfortably. The seat should come to just about knee height. You can get 'chair raisers' that go on the chair legs to make your favourite chair higher if necessary. Only use a footstool if it is light enough for you to be able to kick it out of the way when you want to get up, otherwise it will be a trip hazard.
Baths, Showers and Toilets - These are wet places and wet means 'fall hazard'. Use non-slip tiles on the floor and a non-slip bath mat both inside the shower or bath and also on the floor outside so that you can step out onto a safe surface. If your balance is not good, consider getting a shower stool that you can sit on in the shower. Fit some grab handles if you need extra leverage when getting up from the toilet or bath.
Walking Aids - Sticks, tripods and walking frames are supposed to help you move around safely. However, it is very important that the walking aid is fitted with sound rubber ferrules, these are the rubber tips that come into contact with the ground. These ferrules are what provides grip on a wet or slippery surface. Check the underside of the ferrule for any wear and replace them as required.
Storage in the Home - Plan where you store everyday items. Try to keep them within easy reach so that you don't have to stretch or bend to get them. If you do need to reach high or bend low, use a step-stool that you can either stand on to reach high areas, or sit on when bending.
Footwear - Snug fitting lace up shoes are the best choice because they provide the greatest support and aren't likely to slip off. Slippers or slip-on shoes can become loose over time and slip off your feet as easily as they slip on. The clue is the name SLIP- on, SLIPper. Be careful.
Carrying Heavy or Bulky Loads - Avoid this if possible as carrying a heavy or bulky load will alter your centre of gravity and make you less stable when standing or walking. If you need to carry a heavy load, try splitting the load and carry a smaller load in each hand rather than one heavy load in one hand. This will even up your centre of gravity and help to prevent you toppling over.
Spectacles - Wear them when you need to see! but make sure they are clean. Trying to see through dirty glasses is like trying to see through a frosted glass window - impossible. Get your eyesight checked regularly so that your prescription is correct.
Outside the House - Illuminate any outside steps and paint the edges with white paint to make them easier to see in the dark. Ensure the paving is even and don't leave things lying around to trip over. If you enjoy gardening, consider installing some raised beds so that you don't have to bend. When you are in the garden always carry a mobile phone (cell-phone) to call for help just in case the worst happens and you do fall.
Finally - Make sure that your home is as safe as you can get it so that you can continue living an independent life. All that is suggested is that you remedy all the little hazards in your home so that you lessen the chance of creating one big problem for yourself.
This is a condensed exerpt from my new book - Now Available!'
'Fall Prevention for Older People - A Survival Guide'.
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