In 4th grade, I thought I was unstoppable at our school Field Day as I tore through the obstacle course going in and out, up and over, and wiggling my way through to the end. Your home, my friends, should not be that obstacle course . To minimize your risk of falling, you need to take a look at your environment and hone in on home hazards. An ill-placed footstool or slippery bathtub are just accidents waiting to happen. As you assess your home, here are some key areas to focus on:
BATHROOM: 1/3 of all falls occur in the bathroom, so this is an important room! The best way to manage these slippery surfaces is to remove obstacles and add extra support surfaces for you to balance with and hold on to. For example:
- Bath mats go in your tub and offer a more slip-resistant surface to stand on than the tub floor.
- Avoid small throw rugs, as they are easy to trip over.
- Shower seats are made to go in your tub while bathing so that you can sit on them instead of having to balance in the tub.
- Transfer benches are extended shower seats that allow you to sit down outside your tub and slide into your tub along the bench. This eliminates one of the most dangerous activities in the bathroom–having to step over the tub railing.
- Grab bars can be installed in the shower or in other places of the bathroom. Most are screwed into the studs of the wall, so they can hold up to 200+ pounds! There are some portable alternatives that are suction-based as well. (These are more for steadying one than fully supporting body weight.) A benefit of the suction-based grab bars is their portability; you can travel with them and transform any bathroom to become safer and more accessible for you.
- Raised toilet seats are just as the name indicates, raising the toilet seat anywhere from 2-4 inches. They are especially helpful for those having difficulty lowering down onto the seat or rising up. Many now come with optional hand rails as well.
- Walk-in tubs have increased in popularity over the past several years as people look at ways to make their home safer without sacrificing aesthetic beauty. Unlike traditional tubs that have a high tub wall that must be stepped over, the walk-in tubs have a doorway that one walks through and shuts before the tub fills with warm water. These tubs also come with built in seats to allow a deep seated bathing experience. You can watch this video to learn more about walk-in tubs available at Lambert’s.
STAIRS: Whether you live in a multi-level home or just have stairs outside your home, this is an accident prone area that can cause serious injuries by falls. However, some key precautionary measures can be taken to help reduce your risk:
- Handrails should be installed on each stairwell to provide extra stability and support. Check to be sure that they are securely mounted and are not loose. Be sure that the contour of the rail is comfortable and allows you to easily grip it.
- Avoid clutter on stairs to keep from tripping on it. Though it may seem convenient to put stuff on the stairs meant to be taken up later, you may not see it until it is too late!
- Extra lighting may be required for your stairs. If you cannot install additional lighting overhead, try plugging in a nite-light in an outlet or increasing the wattage of your existing lights.
- Stair lifts are motorized chairs on a track that goes up and down a flight of stairs. Especially helpful for those who have recently had surgery and those with arthritis, knee pain, or hip replacements, these lifts allow the rider to sit and ride safely and comfortably up/down the stairs. Lambert’s will soon have a demo in its Broadway store if you’d like to try it in person; in the meantime, you can watch the video on stairlifts.
OTHER ROOMS OF THE HOUSE: Any room that you regularly use should have special attention given to it, be it a living room, bedroom, or even a playroom for the grandkids. Here are some helpful tips for these rooms:
- Establish walking paths that are free of clutter, well lit, and in a logical layout so that you can easily walk from room to room.
- Arrange furniture so that you are able to walk between pieces easily. Also, furniture can be used as extra support along your walking path to give you something to hold onto if you feel unstable. Pay attention to sharp corners and furniture that is low to the ground like a footstool. These may need to be removed to prevent hurting yourself or tripping over. Many seniors prefer to use a seat lift chair that has both the reclining function to help with circulation in their legs as well as an elevating function to help them rise easily from the chair and reduce their risk of falling.
- Arrange frequently used items so that they stored in easy to reach places.
- Provide adequate lighting throughout your home.
- Be prepared for emergencies by keeping flashlights in each room. This way, you will still be able to see where you’re going even if there is a power outage.
By fully assessing your home and looking for ways to modify your home to fit your needs, you will greatly reduce your risk of falling. Be sure to read next week’s final post on our Fall Prevention Series–Nutrition!