When it comes to safety in the home, we are quite aware of the importance of keeping people as safe as possible in their home environment. In fact, we are committed to keeping people safe in their homes as they age in place. June is observed as “National Home Safety Month” and as such, our emphasis is on aging in place solutions that promote safe practices in the home.
Nevertheless, as much as we might want people to be one-hundred percent safe in their homes and free of any type of injury or accident that might befall them, it just isn’t possible. Unless we confine people to their beds, or restrict them to the sofa in front of the TV, and prohibit them from moving (which could create other concerns such as bed sores and muscle atrophy), they could fall, slip, walk into something, pull a muscle, or otherwise suffer some type of discomfort or injury. It’s called life. Life happens, and there are no guarantees – of safe passage or anything else.
We do what we can to evaluate the homes of our clients and make suggestions about obvious situations that can be improved to allow them to be safer. We point out tripping hazards from paper, boxes, books, clothing, and other items that might be resting on the floor or precariously perched on the edge of a shelf, dresser, table, or cabinet where it could be knocked onto the floor. As long as those are picked up and removed, there should be no tripping hazard. However, it’s not that simple.
As people get older, their vision can change. Their depth perception – with or without corrective lenses or reading glasses – can cause them to see objects closer than they really are and misstep in an attempt to avoid them, or further away and walk into them. They can walk into objects or mistake one object for another. Better lighting helps, but there is no perfect way to make sure that people can see what is in front of them and then be able to distinguish where it is in relation to its surroundings. The same thing happens with shower or bath assists that we mount near the entrance to a tub or shower or inside the shower or on the tub surround. If our clients can’t see them or can’t grab onto them a fall or slip can result.
Knowing that the bathroom floor (after a shower, for instance) or the sidewalk or driveway (such as after or during the rain) might be slippery and actually avoiding a slip on those surfaces might not be the same thing. We can step off-balance or put our foot down on the surface wrong and slip.
In the kitchen, there are many items that can injure us no matter how many precautions we have taken. We can get cut or burned. We can have a heavy object (such as a skillet or something from the freezer) fall on our foot. We can walk into the end of the counter or an open drawer or cabinet door. We can misjudge the weight of something and hurt our legs or back trying to bend down and lift something too heavy or awkward for us to do it easily or safely.
When we attempt to sit at the table or counter to eat, we can misjudge the height or location of the seat and fall backward. This is embarrassing and potentially dangerous. We could even hit our head. Getting into the tub or shower, using the toilet, and sitting down in front of the TV can present similar challenges when vision, physical ability, loss of balance, or just misjudging how close an object is in relation to us can cause us to end up on the floor.
No matter how careful we are about inspecting the living spaces of our clients and how diligent we are in attempting to eliminate known or visible hazards in their homes, we cannot create totally safe living environments for them. We do what we can, educate them about being careful, and trust our layout and design for the rest. People cannot remain totally free of injury, falls, bumps, bruises, and cuts because life is a contact activity – this means that we are physically active, with some people being having more activity than others. We design to eliminate as many issues as we perceive and then hope that the occupants of the home can be as safe from major incidents as they live in their homes long-term.