Slips, trips or falls can happen at any time of life, however, the likelihood of having a fall and the impact that this can have on health and independence becomes more significant with age.
Falls are a major cause of hospitalization, especially amongst the elderly. For some people the consequence can be quite devastating resulting in loss of confidence, permanent injury and a restricted ability to lead an active, independent life.
Around 75% of falls occur in or around the home, but many of these can be prevented by being aware of personal risk factors, finding safer ways of performing tasks and making simple and practical adjustments to the home environment to reduce slipping and tripping hazards and improve safety.
Ensure that there is good lighting in and around the home and that switches are easy to reach. Sensor lights can be strategically placed along hallways and at entrance doors to help with night time visibility.
Glow in the dark products can be placed next to or on door handles, light switches and other objects that may need to be located in the dark. Luminous reflective tape can be used to mark exits, stairs and other hazards.
Allow time for eyes to adjust when moving from brightly lit areas to darker areas and vice versa. Decrease glare by adding net curtains.
Floors, Stairs and Hallways
Check carpeting regularly for worn spots or raised patches. Avoid using throw rugs and runners but if required secure them with carpet tape to prevent slipping. Avoid polishing floors with wax or other slippery materials.
Use contrast to highlight changes in floor surfaces and depth. Avoid heavily patterned flooring which can obscure small obstacles from vision.
Take care when walking through doorways as sometimes the threshold makes the floor surface uneven. Small threshold ramps may help individuals to negotiate these uneven surfaces, especially for walking frame users.
Avoid leaving clutter on the floor (books, handbags, packages, toys and so forth), as these may become a tripping hazard. Ensure any electrical cords are tucked under furniture or taped to skirting boards and do not cross walkways.
Install stair handrails on both sides of steps and stairs.
Bathroom surfaces can be very slippery when wet. Keep water spray to a limited area where possible and clean up quickly. Avoiding using talcum powder (especially on tiled surfaces) which makes floor surfaces extra slippery.
Be extra careful when using non-slip mats. Ensure the edges are firmly stuck down and the rubber-backed mat is held in place. Consider whether these mats create another tripping hazard—applying slip‑resistant tapes or a non-slip floor treatment to the floor and shower tiles may be a safer alternative.
Install grab rails in or adjacent to the shower, bath and toilet to provide stability and support. Replace towel rails with grab rails for extra support.
The hot, wet shower environment can sometimes affect balance—using a shower chair, flip‑down seat or removable stool can give extra support. Ensure soap, shampoo and towels are within reach to avoid bending or reaching. Be careful of dangerous lips/edges around the shower and eliminate if possible.
Consider whether using a bath is really necessary. A clamp on bath rail, non‑slip tape and a bath hoist may make it slightly safer to get in and out of the bath. If the shower is over the bath consider a bath board or bath seat.
A toilet seat raiser could be appropriate if the toilet seat is too low.
Ensure beds are adjusted to an appropriate height to help you get in and out. Bed blocks may be an option if the bed is too low. Always get up slowly. Sit for a short time before standing up.
Always turn a bedside lamp on before getting out of bed during the night and have a phone next to the bed for easy access in case of an emergency.
A commode chair, urinal or bed pan can avoid the need to get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.
For walking aid users, ensure that walking frames can be accessed very close to the bed.
Remove or tuck away any tripping hazards like overhanging bedspreads, electrical cords, clothes or other clutter.
Organise storage to reduce the need for reaching high or bending low as these actions can put you off balance.
Considering sitting down on a kitchen stool when doing the dishes or preparing a meal. Use a tray mobile or trolley to carry items around. Pick up dropped food and mop up spills as soon as they occur.
Put hoses, tools, toys and other objects away after use. Remove any hanging plants that could be walked into. Keep a look out for pets before moving around the garden.
Repair uneven or cracked paths. Ensure lawn areas are as flat as possible. Kill moss and slime on paths. Be especially careful if the ground is frosty or wet and ensure that areas that get wet have non-slip surfaces. Ensure leaves, gravel or other debris are raked up regularly and removed.
Mark the leading edge of steps with a contrasting color and install handrails.
Sit down to dress. Avoid long clothing such as nighties and dressing gowns which may create a tripping hazard when standing up.
Wear low-heeled shoes with rubber soles for good traction. Ensure shoes fit well, are in good repair and are free from grease or dirt. Avoid wearing socks or stockings without shoes when walking on tiled floors or polished floorboards.
For those at high risk of falls, hip protectors may provide extra protection. These are plastic or foam shields worn in special underpants that protect your hips in the event of a fall.
People often down play a slip, trip or fall, blaming clumsiness or error. It is important to take any fall or near miss seriously and take the time to work out what may have caused or contributed to the event.
Keep up with regular health checks and keep an eye out for health problems such as poor balance, dizziness, muscles weakness, incontinence, reduced sensation in legs and feet, poor nutrition, unsteadiness or loss of confidence in walking/using steps. It is important to discuss these with a doctor to ensure any medical conditions are well managed.
Continue regular exercise to help maintain supple joints, muscle strength, balance and walking ability.
Be aware of vision changes and use glasses if required. If your vision is deteriorating, see a low vision advisor to recommend home modifications.
If getting to the toilet on time is a concern talk to a doctor or continence nurse.
Review your medications regularly. Some medicines don’t mix, may cause nasty side effects or may be affected by alcohol. A medication reminder can assist with taking medication correctly. For those who are forgetful, there are timers that can remind them when to take medications.
Ensure good access to telephones to prevent rushing. Consider getting a cordless telephone or install extra telephone extensions.
Don’t rush, concentrate on tasks and take the necessary time. If you’re feeling light headed or exhausted, sit down and rest straight away. Have a plan of how to get help if a fall does occur.
Avoid hazardous tasks such as standing on a chair to reach something from a high cupboard. Look at rearranging the home environment so that frequently used items are at an easy to reach appropriate height. Be aware of the implications of falling from a height and consider asking someone else to assist.
Consider the direction that bathroom and toilet room doors hang—can they be opened outwards if someone has a fall inside the bathroom or toilet room?
Consider the use of a mobility aid such as a walking stick or walking frame. It is important to discuss this first with your doctor.
An emergency call system may help to increase your confidence and independence by helping you contact someone if a fall does occur, particularly for if you live alone.
Fire Prevention Month (and week) raises awareness about fire safety and home safety to help ensure your home and family are prepared in the case of an emergency. This is a perfect time to discuss fire safety with your family. Every family’s safety plans will differ from the next, that is why it is important to sit down with your whole family and plan your home’s fire safety plans.
In 1922, the National Fire Protection Association named the second week in October Fire Prevention Week in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Today, we celebrate Fire Prevention Week and Month by raising awareness and educating families, students and communities across the United States. Fire departments go around to schools and communities to talk to kids and teach them about fire safety and what to do to keep your home safe and what to do in case of a fire.
According to the NFPA*, in 2016 there were 352,000 home fires, and 3 out of 5 fire deaths occurred in homes without smoke alarms.
Less than 50% of homeowners have an escape plan.
Carbon monoxide is the #1 cause of accidental death.
These facts and statistics are reasons why your home needs to be equipped with the proper amount of fire safety equipment and alarms. Fire Prevention Month is a great time to kick start your families commitment to fire safety!
This year’s FPW campaign, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere,” works to educate people about three basic but essential steps to take to reduce the likelihood of having a fire––and how to escape safely in the event of one:
LISTEN Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm. You could have only minutes to escape safely once the smoke alarm sounds. Go to your outside meeting place, which should be a safe distance from the home and where everyone should know to meet.
Forgetting to monitor the batteries in your smoke alarm or carbon monoxide alarm is a common error that could have major repercussions. This is why 10-year battery-operated alarms continue to gain popularity. With battery-operated smoke alarms, it is recommended that batteries are replaced every six months. However, with 10-year battery-operated smoke alarms, you can rest assured knowing that 10-year sealed battery offers continuous power for the life of the alarm.
“Abundance is not about providing everyone on this planet with a life of luxury—rather it’s about providing all with a life of possibility.” ― Peter H. Diamandis, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
Aging in Place
I have always said: If you want a BIG Opportunity, find a BIG Problem…Aging in Place is both. Recently I’ve come across the extraordinary work of Peter H. Diamandis. He too, is fond of saying something similar:
There is no problem we can’t solve it’s just a matter of being smarter, bringing the right people together, the right technology, the right capital, every problem can be solved. Once you get over the initial dismay of the problem, the shock of oh my God what am I going to do about this? If you can flip your mind, say OK there is an opportunity here, right…Problems are Gold Mines.
Aging in Suburbia
The aging of boomers presents a number of challenges (aka problems), not the least of which is where this first suburban generation will want to grow old. A recent National Association of Home Builders report focusing on baby boomer housing preferences found that the majority of boomers want the suburban, single-family lifestyle. This preference was fine for younger able-bodied individuals who could jump in their cars and drive to goods and services whenever the need arose. However, it’s not that simple when chronic infirmities are now a part of the equation.
So far, this is a problem in search of solutions. Aging-in-place professionals and governments have been slow to respond, and silos prevent the kind of cross pollination of IDEAS needed to solve this cultural dilemma that’s just off shore brewing. This is going to take “Moon-shot thinking,” the kind guys like Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler are engaged in.
3D Printing to the Rescue
I have mentioned in prior posts that one way to potentially solve this TITANIC National Priority problem of Aging in Suburbia and “Care Deserts” is to bring goods and services to the burbs–serve the masses where they are. So, unless this is happening to you, or someone you love, the problem isn’t on your radar screen…Yet…But it will be, sooner than you could ever imagine. When your time comes, and you’ve worked through the initial dismay of the problem, the shock of oh my God what am I going to do about this? If you can flip your mind, say OK there is an opportunity here, right…Problems are Gold Mines. Suddenly, you have what I like to call “the burden of insight” a new sense of urgency and what’s possible.
I’ve envisioned how drones could deliver medications, food (meals on drones), and other lifesaving services, to the aging-in-place older adult, but how about 3D Printing? Peter Diamandis talks about how 3D printers could go into space and set up shop once they arrived. This would eliminate the challenges (weight and expense) of taking goods and services to far off destinations; you instead 3D print them when you arrive at your final destination. This got me thinking, the problem is similar in that transportation of goods to a distant location is costly and challenging–making the parallel, why not have 3D printers in suburban homes that could print goods on-demand for an aging population?
For example, in medications; say your MD writes a code script for Coumadin, when your smart-pill container runs out the 3D printer goes to work printing your next month’s supply–no need to drive to town, no need to go to the pharmacy. What other kinds of applications are possible for 3D printing that would facilitate aging in place? This is just one example; the sky is the limit for creative solutions and opportunities to do well while doing good.
“Right now, and for the first time ever, a passionate and committed individual has access to the technology, minds, and capital required to take on any challenge.” -Peter H. Diamandis
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Fire is the number one emergency in the United States. The U.S. Fire Administration reports each year, more than 4,000 Americans die in fires, more than 25,000 are injured in fires, and more than 100 firefighters are killed while on duty. Most of these deaths occur in residences and could have been prevented.
Older adults face the greatest relative risk of dying in a fire. In a report by the US Fire Administration in 2014 older adults represented 14 percent of the United States population but suffered 38 percent of all fire deaths. Older adults over 65 have 2.6 times greater risk of dying in a fire than the total population. And those ages 85 and over were 4.1 times more likely to die in a fire than the total population.
10 simple tips to help you avoid fires and reduce the risk of injury:
1) Smoke Alarms – These are a very important addition to your home. Smoke alarms are widely available and inexpensive. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home and test it monthly.
2) Prevent Electrical Fires – Don’t overload circuits or extension cords. Cords and wires should never be placed under rugs or in high traffic areas. Avoid loose electrical connections by checking the fit of the plug in the wall outlet. If the plug loosely fits, inspect the outlet right away. A poor connection between the plug and the outlet can cause overheating and can start a fire in minutes.
3) Keep Plugs Safe – Unplug all appliances when not in use. Follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions and use your senses to spot any potential disasters. If a plug is overheating, smells strange, shorts out or sparks – the appliance should be shut off immediately, then replaced or repaired.
4) Alternate Heaters – Make sure there is ample space around any portable heating unit. Anything that could catch fire should be at least three feet away. Inspect your chimney annually and use fire screens to help keep any fires in the fireplace.
5) Fire Safety Sprinklers – When combined with working smoke alarms, home fire sprinklers greatly increase your chance of surviving a fire. Sprinklers are affordable and they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.
6) Create An Escape Route – Create and practice your escape plan with your family from every room in the house. Practice staying low to the floor and checking for hot doors using the back of your hand. It’s just like a routine school fire drill – but in your home.
7) Position Appliances Carefully – Try to keep TV sets, kitchen and other appliances away from windows with curtains. If there is a wiring problem, curtains can spread a fire quickly. Additionally, keeping your appliances away from water sources (like rain coming in from windows) can help prevent wiring damage which can lead to a fire.
8) Clean Dryer Vents – Clothes dryers often start fires in residential areas. Clean the lint filter every time you start a load of clothes to dry or after the drying cycle is complete. Make sure your exhaust duct is made of metal tubing and not plastic or foil. Clean the exhaust duct with a good quality dryer vent brush to prevent blockage & check for lint build up behind the dryer at least twice a year.
9) Be Careful Around the Holidays – If you fill your home with lights during the holiday season, keep them away from anything that can easily catch fire. Check all of your lights prior to stringing them up and dispose of anything with frayed or exposed wires.
10) Conduct Regular Inspections – Check all of your electronic equipment and wiring at least once a month. Taking a little time to do this each month can really pay off.
Following these simple tips could potentially save your life or the life of a loved one. Pass this list on to your friends and family and make this fire prevention month count!