All of us who work in the field of Elder Care are aware that the biggest obstacle to successfully keeping people in their homes is denial. If we can’t get our clients to acknowledge their own limitations, all the professional services we offer are useless. And this refusal to accept the obvious extends far beyond the senior population. Baby Boomers (and I can speak to this as I am a Baby Boomer myself) definitely don’t want to talk about aging. We live in a society that treasures youth, so Boomers put more energy into staying young than preparing for their future. Unfortunately, the attitude of “not me” is more prevalent than not.
I’m reminded of a client: a man in his late 80’s who still managed the stairs in his 3 story townhome. I was called in to check for safety issues particularly as related to areas that might precipitate a fall. Aside from there being no grab bars in his shower, slippery type tile on the shower and bathroom floors, and lack of a handrail on one section of the stairs, the old shag carpeting on all 3 flights of stairs was coming loose and buckling in several locations. When I suggested that the stairwell carpeting needed to be replaced so that he wouldn’t trip and fall down the stairs, he balked. I don’t need any help,” he said. “Look at what I can do.” He then proceeded to launch into a half dozen jumping jacks to show me how physically fit he was. Once I explained that safety had little to do with age, that a child could trip on loose stair carpeting, and if he fell that, in itself, could spell the end of his independence, he settled down to listen.
Here are a few facts relating to falls:
So what can we do to protect our independence and reduce the chance of falling in our homes?
1. Reduce tripping hazards – remove books, shoes, laundry, and toys from stairs; make sure electrical
cords run along the walls and not across the room
2. Install handrails on both sides of stairs and steps.
3. Increase the lighting and the top and bottom of the stairs; put bright lights over all porches and
4. Frequently used items should be stored in easy-to-reach places so that using a step stool or chair is
5. Small rugs are a hazard. Either remove them completely or tape them to the floor with double stick tape.
6. Have nightlights in the bedroom, hallways and bathrooms.
7. Use non-slip strips, non-slip coatings, or non-slip tile in bathtubs and showers
8. Install grab bars in showers and tubs
Falls can happen to anyone, but as we age the likelihood of accidental falls increases and becomes a challenge for those wishing to remain in their homes. Evaluating your home now and implementing the safety measures mentioned above, can substantially reduce the chance of long term injury in the future.
As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."