Did you know that falling is the number one cause of injury among seniors who are 65 and older? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year 1 in 3 senior adults suffers an injury due to a fall. While some may recover and continue living an active or independent lifestyle, many seniors end up in the hospital or transition into a nursing home because of serious injuries. In the most severe cases, like a broken hip or leg, a senior may develop complications that result in death.
Even if the fall is not life threatening, it can be costly. The CDC reported that in 2012, the total cost of injuries and injury-related complications in seniors was approximately $30 billion. What is most frustrating about these types of incidences and injuries is that they typically can be prevented.
What are the most common types of falls?
While a senior can slip, trip or fall in almost any place or situation, there are some areas where special care can be taken to provide a safer environment for your loved one. For example, a set of stairs to a second floor or basement could be hazardous, but so could that step leading into the garage, or one down into the utility room? What might be a quick entry point into a different room of the house to most could be a hazard to a not-so-nimble senior.
Also, front porches and outdoor steps are dangerous areas where falls often occur. In the winter, icy conditions can make those hazards even more of a concern. In addition to steps and stairs, any slippery surface around the home can be a fall hazard. Bathtub falls are among the most common causes of accidents at home for seniors. Aside from getting in and out of the tub, walking along smooth surfaces in stockings or socks and tripping hazards, such as cords and furniture legs, also present increased fall risks.
What steps should be taken to make a home fall-proof?
Fall prevention should not be taken lightly, since it could mean the difference between life and death. The focus should not be on simply eliminating the hazards but creating a safe environment in and outside of the home.
First, install handrails along any stairs or steps, including the areas where only one step exists. Handrails may need to be installed on both sides, such as areas leading into the garage or utility room. Remember that your senior may need to go both up and down the step. The bathroom is an area that should be closely observed for the installation of support rails. Install handrails and guards in and around the tub and toilet. Next, focus on the floor. If there are any slippery areas, provide rugs that are firmly secured to the floor and make sure that your loved one wears rubber-gripped slippers for traction. Provide clear walkways from room to room, keeping all cords secured carefully along the baseboards.
Slip and fall accidents can be prevented through careful observation and action. Sometimes the most obvious things can contribute to a hazardous situation. When in doubt, take action to ensure safety for your loved one.