Be Safe at Home in August
August 23 through 29 is National Safe at Home Week, sponsored by the National Safety Council. The number of things to be concerned about when it comes to keeping our homes safe can seem overwhelming. Fire safety (smoke alarms, having an exit plan), physical security (locks, landscaping), disaster readiness (floods and tornadoes) and poison control (safe storage of medicines and toxic cleaning products) are only a few of the areas that need attention. Another one, which especially concerns older adults, is the ability to move safely around our homes: trip and fall prevention.
Focus on Falls
This month our focus is on safety issues related to fall prevention. One out of three adults age 65 and over falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They estimate that over two million nonfatal fall injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments in the United States in 2008. Falls are the leading cause of emergency department visits by seniors and they are the second-leading cause of injury-related death. Safe at Home Week gives everyone a good reason to get serious about fall prevention!
A fall-safe home is especially important if you are someone with an increased risk of falling. Ask yourself three questions:
- Have I fallen in the past 12 months?
- Do I feel unsteady when standing or walking?
- Do I worry about falling?
If your answer is “yes” to any of these three questions, you are considered to have an increased risk of falling. First, make sure to discuss this with your health care practitioner at your next visit. In the meantime, to move the odds in your favor do whatever you can to make your home more fall-safe.
Following are some common sense things to do to make yourself and your home more fall-safe. To make them easier to recall, remember the word SMILES.
S – Sight
To help spot the trip hazards in your way, get an annual vision checkup.
M – Medicines
Check all your medicines. Have your health care professional or pharmacist review your medicines to be sure they aren’t increasing your risk of falling.
I – Inspection
Do a fall safety home inspection and address any issues that you discover. Specific areas to check are listed below.
L – Light
Make sure the lighting in your home is uniform and use brighter bulbs where necessary. Sometimes, to save on their electric bill, people substitute low wattage bulbs in traffic areas - not a good idea.
E – Exercise
Exercise regularly to improve your balance. See http://tinyurl.com/76xqlxu for some suggestions from the CDC or ask your health care professional for some ideas.
S – Shoes
Don’t wear slippers around the house. They increase your risk of tripping.
A 15 Minute Home Fall Safety Inspection
Here is a quick home safety inspection checklist that takes less than 15 minutes to complete. It is not complete, but it provides a way to begin to make your home fall-safe.
Clear paths around your furniture; remove clutter.
If you must use throw rugs, make sure they are anchored. Avoid using throw rugs.
Make sure wires and cords aren’t where they are a trip hazard.
Stairs and Steps
Remove any objects on the stairs.
Fix any broken steps.
Make sure there is enough light.
Use self-stick strips or a rubber mat on the tub or shower floor.
Install grab bars by the tub and toilet.
Make sure the path between the bedroom and bathroom is well-lit.
Make sure a light is easy to reach from the bed.
When working with a home health or home care agency, be sure to ask if they do a complete home safety inspection before beginning care.
The CDC offers a Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults at http://tinyurl.com/nqeqoa6. For a free printed copy, contact AC Skylines Home Care Services at the number below.
Summertime in Central Illinois brings with it many wonderful diversions in our community. A healthy lifestyle dictates getting out and taking advantage of as many as possible. Safe at Home Week also reminds us to budget some time to make our homes safer. There is no time like the present to take the first steps to make yourself and your home more safe - especially more fall-safe.
For more information, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689-5343.