Whether it’s us in our own homes or our clients in theirs, avoiding falls at any age, but especially as we grow older, takes a lot of concentrated effort. Falls are sneaky. They can happen even when we are trying to be careful. They certainly can occur when we are being careless. It’s almost like tripping us up or putting us on the ground is a conscious mission of falling – if they were such a thing.
We don’t get up in the morning and put a note on our “to-do” list for that day to have a fall – not even a minor stumble. We should actually put a note on our list to avoid a slip, tumble, stumble, or fall. It takes this kind of a committed approach to remain safe, and sometimes that isn’t even enough.
We know that there are so many obstacles – visible and more hidden or subdued – that we encounter daily just in navigating the floor plans of our homes and living in them. We can consciously and intentionally move and remove items from passageways and stairs. We can unclutter high traffic areas. We can make sure that frequently used or accessed items are not stored beyond what we can reach from a normal standing or seated position, depending on our mobility. We can eliminate items that are stored on higher shelves or on top of cabinets that could fall and injure us.
While we can consciously eliminate items and situations in our homes that might trip us or cause us to potentially lose our balance by running into them, some falls and accidents happen in the home through an unperceived and unplanned momentary lapse of focus – we didn’t look where we were going, we took to long of a step and lost our balance, we were carrying something that partially blocked our vision and we misstepped or slipped, or we turned our head or our eyes to check something that caught our attention and forgot to pay attention to where we were going or what was ahead of us.
Many of us love having decorations and accessories lining our sidewalks and patios, adorning our porches, and complementing our interior decor. While fulfilling their purpose of adding interest and color to a space, they can easily cross over into the troublesome side where they become visual distractions or outright tripping hazards for us and our clients.
Sometimes, these adornments are large and bold. Sometimes they have busy patterns that affect our visual perception or balance. Sometimes they protrude into passageways. Sometimes they combine with other accessories to create a visual look that is hard for us to process.
It’s not the accessories by themselves that are the issue. It’s when they are combined with other furnishings or used in a way that narrows passageways or directs our visual focus away from watching where we are going that they become issues. We need to be more aware of how patterns, colors, sizes, and shapes of accessories and furnishings are affecting a space and anyone’s ability to move comfortably through that space without incident.
Whether it is sitting or standing from a chair, the toilet, or the edge of the bed, or bending, kneeling, or squatting and then standing upright again to access a lower cabinet or shelf and retrieve something from it, walking on a slippery sidewalk, driveway, or tile floor because it has moisture on it, getting in or out of the bathtub or shower, or reach ing and retrieving items from an upper shelf in a cabinet or closet, we easily can overextend ourselves, lose our balance, or stress a muscle, and slip, lose our balance, or fall,
It is next to impossible to remain totally free from situations that might cause us to fall. Therefore, we have to be alert and ready to take evasive action if we feel ourselves beginning to fall. Catching ourselves with our hands or absorbing part of the shock of falling with our hands is preferable to landing facedown and possibly hitting our head. Rolling in another way of contacting the floor or ground to absorb some of the impact and land on large muscles.
Short of being as diligent as we can be about stepping correctly, not trying to carry too much at any one time (because the items might be heavy, may affect our balance, or may obscure our vision), we need to be careful not to place ourselves in compromising situations that could result in a fall, At a much younger age, falls weren’t as serious. The older we get, the more serious they become because they can lead to other medical complications.