Browse All Articles
Home Sweet (Safe) Home
Source: Gordon Walker
Falls in the Home
are the leading cause of fractures, injury and deaths among persons
over the age of 65. The prevention of falls greatly improves the
chances of staying at home.
Falls can happen any time and any
place, but two-thirds of falls by senior citizens occur in the home
during everyday activities like walking across a cluttered room,
slipping on a throw rug or a wet floor, standing on a stool or using
the stairs. Many of these accidents could be prevented by an item as
simple as tape, a bathtub grab bar, or by the repair or installation of
a stairway railing.
There is a pattern to falls and their
aftermath. An injury followed by hospitalization, decreased
independence and mobility, and relocation to an institution is too
often the norm. A fall can be a major life-changing event that causes
many elderly people to lose the opportunity to stay at home.
the fear of falling can create considerable anxiety-a form of
paralysis. This condition can erode self-confidence and lead to severe
restrictions in daily activities, which in turn can cause social
isolation and depression.
The number of falls and severity of
injury increases with age. The cost of falls to older persons, their
families, and other taxpayers is huge. An estimated $20 million is
spent annually in the United Sates for hospital and nursing home
treatment of fall-related injuries. Hip fractures alone number 300,000
per year, or nearly 1,000 each day, and cost an averge of $35,000 per
patient. Approximately 25 percent of these patients make a full
recovery, 40 percent require nursing home admission, and 20 percent
will die within a year.
good news is that falls are not a natural consequence of growing older.
Steps can be taken to prevent falls by identifying the major risk
factors and taking some common sense precautions. The New England Journal of Medicine
has reported a study that demonstrates how relatively simple prevention
strategies can drastically reduce the incidence of falls. Here are the
risk factors with possible remedies:
Problem: Falling at home.
A recent study conducted at the University of Buffalo has shown that
costs related to institutional care for a control group were nearly
four times higher than for a treatment group of frail elderly who
received in-home environmental improvements.
Solution: Investigate ways to make the home safer, then take appropriate measures.
Provide enough light. Keep stairs free from clutter, and use sturdy handrails.
Install handrails. Use non-skid rugs on the bathroom floor and tub. Use a nightlight.
Avoid climbing, but when you do, use a stable stool with handrails. Arrange storage at counter level. Do not wax the floor.
- Living area:
Keep electrical telephone cords and other items out of pathways. Remove throw rugs.
Problem: Balance and walking problems -- muscle weakness leading to difficulty safely using the toilet and bathtub.
Solution: participate in exercise programs that increase strength and range of motion. Learn safer ways to bathe.
children should discuss these issues with their parents and investigate
their parents' home to identify and address risk factors for falls.
This is particularly important before a parent is discharged from a
hospital or nursing home.
Occupational therapists can be a
great help. Ask your parents' doctor to prescribe a home assessment.
Your local Area Agency on Aging may have a home safety program and
could make recommended modifications so often necessary to prevent
falls. For a peace of mind, there's no place like a safe home.
You must be logged-in to submit a comment. Log in
Not registered with thecareguide.com? Register
View all comments