Preventing Falls in and out of Your Home
In only a fraction of a second, you could unexpectedly lose your balance and fall on a sidewalk or down a flight of stairs. Each year many Americans become injured after a fall in and around their own homes. Falls can happen to anyone, but they are the primary cause of injury in people over age 65, and the risk of falling increases as you get older. The most common injuries resulting from a fall are head injuries, wrist fractures, spinal fractures, and hip fractures. In fact, about 90 percent of all hip fractures occur as the result of a fall. Many of these injuries could have been prevented by taking simple precautions in the home, where most falls occur. It is prudent to make a room-by-room check of your own home to eliminate any potential safety hazards:
Bathroom Keep a night-light on during the night, or replace the light switch with a “glow switch.” Use rugs and bath mats with nonskid backings, and place textured strips or a nonskid mat in the tub or the shower. Leave the bathroom door unlocked when you are inside so someone else can open it if you fall. Consider installing handrails in the tub and near the toilet.
Kitchen Don’t stand on chairs, boxes, or other makeshift items to reach objects on high shelves; buy a step stool with handrails. Store as much as you can at counter level. Improve lighting by opening curtains and installing undercabinet lighting. Clean up spills promptly. Don’t wax your floors because they may become too slippery, and avoid walking on wet floors.
Bedroom Keep clutter to a minimum. Don’t throw soiled laundry on the floor; put it in a laundry basket. Remove loose throw rugs and make sure electrical and telephone cords are kept close to the wall. Don’t buy an excessively high bed. Keep a night-light on during the night, or locate your bed close to a lamp or a light switch.
Living and Family Rooms Arrange your furniture so it provides an open pathway between rooms. Keep low tables and other small pieces of furniture out of the pathway. Ensure that electrical and telephone cords stay against the wall. Purchase rugs with nonskid backing, apply double-faced adhesive carpet tape to all rugs, or put rubber padding under them.
Stairways Use a high-wattage bulb in the stairway light fixture to see the steps clearly. Remove objects from the stairs. Install carpeting or nonskid treads on all stairways. Make sure handrails and supporting posts are sturdy and not loose.
Basement/Garage/Workshop Make sure lighting is adequate. Store power tools when not in use so you won’t trip on the electrical cords. Keep clutter to a minimum, and store all boxes against the wall.
All Areas of the House or Apartment Avoid wearing only socks in the house, especially if you have polished wood floors you can slip on; put on shoes with nonskid soles, and tie up the laces. Keep a flashlight and extra batteries handy so you can see any tripping hazards if the electricity fails. Check all electrical and telephone cords to make sure they lie against the wall, not across the floor. Maintain good lighting. Use nonskid rugs and mats. Pick up toys, boxes, and other clutter regularly. Repair any crumbling concrete on outside stairs or sidewalks. In the winter, hire someone to shovel snow away from walkways and remove icy patches. Mark any outside steps that have unusually high or low risers with bright tape, or paint them a different color.
Regular, weight-bearing exercise, such as brisk walking and stair climbing, puts stress on the large muscles of your lower body and can help you avoid falls by increasing your strength, improving flexibility, and boosting your coordination and balance. Exercise also maintains bone strength so that, if you do fall, your chances of breaking a bone are reduced. In the event of a fall, try not to panic. Slide or crawl across the floor to the nearest chair and try to get up. If you cannot, call someone else to help you, or crawl to the telephone and dial 911 or your local emergency telephone number.
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