Last Friday, we discussed home maintenance for elders. It was about general upkeep and decorating so I think it is important to talk about safety issues too.
Twelve or 14 years ago, I ran the website of the Professional Team Physicians, mostly orthopedists who treat the injuries of pro sports players – famous and not.
The site was aimed at accomplished amateurs who were equally prone to ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), meniscus and other joint traumas that often require surgery and sometimes lengthy at-home recovery.
One of the most popular stories we ran was about how to prepare a home for a safe recovery when the patient is likely to be on crutches, hobbling about with a cane or moving around tentatively until fully healed.
What’s good for a young athlete applies equally to an elder’s well being because among people 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths and serious injuries, and about half of all falls happen at home. So that’s what we’ll concentrate on today.
Number one: throw rugs: Get rid of them. Failing that, use heavy-duty, double-sided tape to attach them to the floor and replace the tape regularly for optimum stickiness.
Put away toys. That’s what we told young parents and it could apply to grandparents who keep playthings around for when the kiddies visit.
Even without grandchildren, there are all sorts of things to remove from walking areas: piles of newspapers, magazines and books; clothing; shoes; golf bags leaning against the wall; musical instruments.
Years ago, I damaged a boyfriend’s guitar when I tripped on it, but in old age it might have been me too. Whatever you accumulate, place it where no one can bump into it.
Particularly, keep anything at all off stairs, and it should go without saying that all stairs should have strong handrails.
Cables, cords and wires. Make sure none of these cross traffic areas. If a cord must run along a wall to reach an electrical outlet, tape it to the wall or use staples that are made for that purpose available at all hardware stores.
Remember, too, that electrical cables should never be placed under rugs, mats and carpeting. That is a fire hazard.
Grab bars. In the shower, tub and next to the toilet – at least one and preferably two in each place.
Non-skid mats in the tub and on the bathroom floor. Soap residue is extremely slippery.
Arrange your kitchen with most frequently used items on lower shelves so you don’t need a step stool to reach them. When you must use one, be sure it has rubber-grip feet and is stable.
Because our eyesight fades with age, lighting is important. Brighter lights may be necessary. Stairwells should be well lit with switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs. It is good to add lighting to dark corners and nightlights are useful to guide us to the bathroom in the dark.
Recently, I discovered a new falling hazard the hard way: a too-long bedskirt that I tripped on while making the bed. So check your home for anything in which you might get your foot tangled.
(By the way, if anyone knows where to buy bedskirts with a 12-inch drop, do let me know. There seem to be none any shorter than 14 to 18 inches. Who sleeps in beds that high off the floor anyway? And wouldn’t that be another fall hazard?)
In future posts, I’ll talk about other kinds of home safety measures for elders, but if I’ve missed anything about falls today or you have other suggestions, please leave them below in the comments.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lois Cochran: A Wet Monday