No one likes to take a tumble, but for older adults, a fall can lead to serious medical complications, and even death. Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries, and one out of five falls causes a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury.
Add grab bars and railings Many falls happen in the bathroom. Help prevent them by adding grab bars in and around the tub or shower, and by the toilet. If the home has stairways or steps, add railings on both sides.
“The statistics are staggering. Age-related changes can make older adults much more susceptible to injuries after a fall, ”explains Anthony Nappi, PT and RN at InnovAge's Blue Ridge PACE center in Charlottesville, Virginia. “These changes can include reduced bone density, impaired reaction times, balance and walking impairments, and decreased muscle mass.
Below are three important areas to check to be sure your home is safe for your older loved one:
Clutter on stairs, steps, or the floor, is a fall waiting to happen. Pick up and remove shoes, books, papers, and any cords or wires that could be tripped over. Be sure there are clear pathways in and out of rooms, and move or remove furniture if needed. Similarly, consider removing all throw rugs.
Check lighting Check all lightbulbs throughout the home; swap the bulbs out for brighter ones, and consider adding nightlights in the bedroom and bathroom. In the bedroom, be sure lighting is easy to reach from the bed.
At InnovAge, every enrollee in the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly receives an in-home assessment. "The assessment is completed by a rehabilitative therapist, either a physical or occupational therapist," says Anthony."This is crucial to identify safety and fall prevention opportunities as well as modifications that enable improvements in mobility and access."
With PACE's focus on keeping seniors living independently for as long as possible, ensuring a safe home environment is critical. What changes have you made to make your home safer?