Mark Brauweiler, PT, DPT, CMT, CSCS – Clinic Manager, Tipton
In the not-so-far-off future—just 11 short years from now—the most recent estimates predict that 20% of the total United States population will be 65 years old or older.1 While this shift in population age can be attributed to a variety of things, advances in medicine are certainly one of the factors.
And while those advances are keeping people alive and healthier for longer, it also presents new challenges. One of those is how to keep yourself—or someone you love—safe in their own home for as long as possible. That can be a difficult task, and patients often wonder, “But where do I even start?” when it comes to keeping themselves safe at home. Knowing how to avoid falls and injuries at home (and avoid what happened to 1.6-million older adults who were treated in emergency rooms in 2002 because of falls2) can be a daunting task, but having a check list is a good place to begin.2-4
- Is the path from the bedroom to the bathroom dark? If your path is too dark—or is too cluttered and you can’t see items in your way—then installing a dim night-light can help you see where you’re going.
- Do you have a hard time getting on/off the toilet? Installing grab bars or a toilet seat riser can be relatively cheap but extremely effective ways of easing the burden—and lowering your fall risk—when getting on and off the toilet.
- Are the things you often use in the kitchen on the very top or bottom shelves? Something as simple as moving your regularly used items (bowls, plates, utensils) from hard-to-reach places to waist or chest height shelves can make it easier to get things out and put things away without having to stoop or stand on your tip-toes.
- Do you have rugs around the house? Though rugs often help a room look nicer, they can some times pose a tripping hazard. Either getting rid of the rug or using a “rug gripper” pad underneath can help lower your tripping potential.
- Are you emergency ready? Plan ahead! Items like LifeAlert are available if you live alone and are fearful of falling. Even if you don’t feel you need a LifeAlert, having emergency numbers posted somewhere convenient in your house, carrying your cell phone with you at all times, and keeping items like a fire extinguisher on each floor can help keep risk of injury and damage to a minimum.
- Have you had your balance evaluated? Having a physical therapist (PT) test your balance can help you identify if you’re at risk of falling; and if you are, how much of a risk. PTs can then help develop a program for you to improve balance and lower your fall risk.
There are plenty of other things to consider, and for more information you should check out the resources below, or ask one of PRA’s PTs or occupational therapists (OTs) for more ideas on how to “fall proof” your home to help reduce your fall risk.
- U.S. Census Bureau. “Older People Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History.” Newsroom: U.S. Census Bureau. 2018. Accessed 05/31/2019. Available at: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/cb18-41-population-projections.html
- CDC. “Check for Safety: A home fall prevention check list for older adults.” CDC and Metlife Foundation educational pamphlet. 2005. Accessed 05/31/2019. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/pubs/English/booklet_Eng_desktop-a.pdf
- APTA. “Home Safety Checklist for Fall Hazards.” Move Forward PT. Accessed 05/31/2019. Available at: http://www.moveforwardpt.com/Assets/0b94cd33-692c-4b32-8741-2cfb6e6a4ba0/634427092947330000/homesafetychecklist-falls-pd
- Health in Aging. “Home Safety Tips for Older Adults.” Healthinaging.org. 2016. Accessed 05/31/2019. Available at: https://www.healthinaging.org/tools-and-tips/home-safety-tips-older-adults