Monday, September 5, 2011

Keeping Yourself Safe at Home

by Anne Pagnoni

Home is where the heart is. Most people want to stay in their homes for the duration of their lives. While it's inevitable that we'll experience physical changes as we age, there are some things that we can do to make sure that we're able to remain safely in the family home.

The biggest thing which forces an older adult from his or her home is a fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of three adults over age 65 falls each year and is the leading cause of injury death. Falls are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions due to trauma. Keep in mind that a fall can cause a hip fracture, pelvis fracture, or head injury all of which carry their own complications. All is not lost, however, as many falls do not "just happen" but can many times be avoided.

One of the most important things to do to ensure safety in the home is to make sure that your house is well-lit. If you have areas in your home that are dim, then consider adding additional lighting fixtures or table lamps. Have working light switches at the top and bottom of all stairs.

Stairs can be particularly hazardous. Make sure that all stairs are in good repair and clutter free. You should have handrails on both sides of the stairs. If you have wooden or concrete steps, then you may consider painting a strip of contrasting color on the edge of each step to guard against a misstep. Avoid carrying large items up or down the stairs. If you absolutely must carry something, then make sure you carry the item in one hand and hold onto the hand rail with the other. Never let the item that you're carrying block your view of the steps.

Throw rugs, pets, electric cords, coffee tables, and cluttered high-traffic areas all pose a tripping risk. All throw rugs should either be removed or tacked down. Pets have a tendency to get under foot. Make sure you always know where your pet is as you are walking around your home. Electric cords and telephone cords should all be taped down if they are crossing the floor in a traffic area. Coffee tables tend to be knee level as opposed to eye level. Make sure your coffee table is in an area that you don't frequently walk. Keep all walkways clutter free.

Avoid using waxy cleaners on hardwood, tile, or vinyl flooring as wax makes floors slippery. If you must use wax, then choose a non-skid formula. Do not walk on wet floors as they are slippery. Allow ample time to make sure that floors are dry before walking on them. During the winter months, make sure that you have salt or sand by any exterior doors that are used. Icy surfaces are slippery, too!

The bathroom is another room in the house that is full of fall hazards. To avoid falls in the shower, make sure that you have a non-skid surface in the tub/shower. If you have a bath rug or bath mat outside of the shower, make sure that it is secured to keep it from slipping when you step on it. Grab bars should be present and anchored securely to the inside of the tub or shower. If it is difficult for you to shower standing up, then consider purchasing a bath seat and a hand-held shower head. Both will allow you to continue tending to your personal care while reducing your risk of falling while showering. If you have difficulty getting on or off of the toilet, make sure that you have a toilet with a raised toilet seat and securely anchored grab bars near the toilet.

While a fall might not be the biggest concern to someone who is preparing a meal in the kitchen, there are a variety of other accidents waiting to happen. Keep your canned goods, other staple items, and pots and pans in an easy to reach location. Heavier items should be stored in lower cabinets while lighter items can be stored in higher cabinets. Make sure you have a stable step stool handy so that you can safely reach items that are outside of your reach. Keep a working fire extinguisher readily accessible to the kitchen. Avoid wearing loose fitting clothing while cooking on the stove top as they may catch fire.

For added security, have a telephone in all bedrooms, the living room, and kitchen. Make sure you have a list of emergency numbers next to each phone. If you have chronic health conditions or take medications that have a tendency to make you dizzy, then you may benefit from wearing an emergency call pendant. Should you happen to have a fall or another mishap in a part of the house where you aren't able to get to a phone, an emergency call pendant just may save your life. By pressing a button on a pendant that you wear either around your neck or on your wrist, you have access to an emergency response team 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

By exercising caution and making some minor home improvements and changes to the way you do things, you will greatly reduce your risk of injury in the home.

No comments:

Post a Comment