We’ve already noted that September is “Falls Prevention Month,” but this topic cannot be overemphasized. It is much larger than just a month’s activity. It needs to be a daily focus. When it comes to successful aging in place – regardless of someone’s age or physical condition – they need to remain safe in their home. This is a challenge that we need to embrace and take quite seriously.
There are so many areas in the home that present potential issues for safety and well-being – even some that seem rather benign at first look. People can have many more contributing factors to trips, slips, and potential falls than they realize. Their home may not be very friendly to them at all.
This is where we come in to provide a layer of education and protection for our clients by looking at what is going on in their homes and making the appropriate recommendations and suggestions. Nevertheless, even with our best efforts and intentions, falls do happen to nearly everyone, but imagine how much more frequent they might occur or how much more serious or debilitating they might be if we weren’t dedicated to preventing and eliminating as many potential tripping incidents as we can. This is particularly true for the older population.
There are just so many things in and about a person’s home – let alone places away from the home – when accidents can happen. All falls and slips are uncomfortable – if not embarrassing – but not all are injurious. Many are, and this tends to increase dramatically with age. Sometimes it’s just a slip or an embarrassing fall that produces no lasting effects – maybe just a bruise or a slight muscle strain, if anything. Sometimes, the strain or sprain can be a little more severe. Sometimes, a broken bone or dislocation results. This is when it can be more serious.
Regardless of the severity of a fall or slip, the objective is to eliminate as many potential causes for such conditions as we can. There are the obvious ones such as extension or power cords that cross a passageway (or run under a rug or carpet), or a hose stretched across the sidewalk. There are pools of water from rain or lawn and garden watering that can look simple enough to walk on or through but become problematic. They can turn slippery without warning.
Items that are on their way to the garage, attic, closet, pantry, basement, or car (such as toys, clothing and outerwear, tools, and groceries before they are put away) can cause someone to trip over them or misstep as they try to walk around or avoid them. Slipping on a magazine or stack of papers is quite slippery and dangerous as far as a fall potential.
If we examine carpeting or flooring, we may find tears, wear spots, areas where it has stretched than can potentially cause a stumble. Then, there is glare from shiny surfaces and loose throw or area rugs (or ones with the corners curled up) that can present navigation issues in the home. Wet flooring in the bathroom or from moisture tracked in from the outside (near exterior doorways) can lead to slips. It’s very hard to remain upright and not slip or fall when our footing is compromised in any way. This needs to be a top priority – the integrity of the flooring product itself, how solidly it is attached to the subfloor or slab, and the evenness of it so that there are no noticeable transitions in height between them when it changes in doorways. Lighting goes right along with this, and now with LED lighting being so common and inexpensive, it can help illuminate formerly dark places in the home to eliminate shadows and items that might be in the pathway.
While the idea that someone’s home is their castle or a sanctuary sounds great to us emotionally, it comes with no guarantees. It isn’t automatically true that a person’s home is safe, that once they walk through the front door after arriving home that everything will be safe for them. There are so many things going on in and around the home – nearly constantly – that we need to watch out for and then correct to keep our homes and those of our loved ones, neighbors, and clients relatively safe.
Safety never takes a holiday or vacation. It only takes a momentary lapse in concentration or focus for a slip or fall to happen. It is not an easy proposition – necessary, but not easy. We must be committed to a constant vigilance for our own homes and those of the people we serve.