Your home should be a safe haven, a place where you always feel comfortable and in control. But as you age, seemingly innocent items around the house can catch you off-guard and cause a fall.
The risks, especially for older adults who live alone, are too great to ignore. About 25 percent of adults 65 and older fall every year, according to the CDC. And about one-fifth of those falls result in serious injury, including broken bones and head trauma. Many fall victims believed their homes were safe and their mobility was just fine prior to the fall.
That’s why occupational therapy is among the most important services available to you through Emcara Health. Our providers not only can help you move better, but they can also work with you to review your home set-up and eliminate risks that may lead to a fall.
Being attentive to your home environment is just one factor. Your care team will also consider your medications, eyesight, footwear, and anything else that can affect your mobility.
Let’s examine the risks inside the average home and use recommendations from our experts, the CDC’s Fall Prevention Checklist, and National Council on Aging (NCOA) to make yours safer
Moving around your home shouldn’t feel like you’re on an obstacle course. Your fall risk increases substantially if your hallways and daily paths are cluttered with hazards, so start by identifying those unnecessary items and moving them elsewhere.
That might mean moving shoes, clothes, pet toys and food bowls, and anything else that doesn’t need to be on or near the floor. You might even rearrange your furniture to simplify your main routes around the home, removing awkward steps around coffee tables and sofas.
Your home’s floor should support your mobility, not present hazards. Keep area rugs out of high-traffic areas to prevent your shoe from catching on one as you walk over it. The CDC recommends that every rug in your house have a grippy, rubber bottom so it doesn’t shift underneath you and cause a slip. Bunched-up carpeting and loose floorboards or tiles can also catch your foot. No matter the material they’re made from, floors should be level and firmly nailed or tacked to the subfloor.
In bathrooms and kitchens, adhesive floor-grip strips can help prevent slips on wet floors. High-risk areas like stairs may also benefit from grip-tape treatment. Of course, the best defense is a good offense, so wipe up any spills immediately.
Finally, move power cords, cables, and wires up against the wall to reduce trip hazards—spiral cable wrap is a cheap and easy way to consolidate your cords and make them easy to spot. If you absolutely must run cables across a pathway, the CDC recommends taping them down or using a well-marked cord protector to keep them in a predictable place.
You can’t avoid what you can’t see, so good visibility is crucial for keeping a safe home. Not only should every room of your house be well-lit, but you should be able to turn lights on and off from wherever you are.
Beginning at the front door, motion sensor lights can help ensure you always have a safe entrance and exit to your house. Once inside, hallways and stairs should be well-illuminated and have light switches at both ends so you’re never in the dark, according to the NCOA.
High-visibility tape can also help draw your attention to potential hazards such as the front of each step in your staircase or changes in flooring material or height. And use night lights to illuminate your path to the bathroom, the bathroom itself, or anywhere else you might go in the dark.
Finally, make sure you’re ready for a situation when the lights go out. Keep several flashlights in easy-to-access areas, particularly near your bed.
Grab bars and railings can help you navigate tricky situations and protect you in the event of a stumble. Case in point: Staircases should have two sturdy railings instead of one, per the CDC, and you should get in the habit of using both.
In the bathroom, you may want grab bars in the tub or shower and near the toilet. (While you’re at it, non-slip mats for the shower or tub and the floor where you step afterward are musts.) Your Emcara Health providers can help you fit your bathroom with grab bars, an elevated toilet seat, or a chair and a hand-held shower head to meet your needs.
For areas where grab bars aren’t an option, such as living room furniture, you can also work with your provider to put yourself in a safe position to sit down and get up.
Not being able to reach the things you need can be frustrating, and frustration can cause us to take unnecessary risks. For that reason, the NCOA suggests you arrange your day-to-day items in areas that are easy for you to access.
Your favorite foods and cookware, for example, should be at an ideal height for you in your kitchen cupboards—let a visitor help you access the lesser-used dishes and small appliances you keep tucked away down low or up high.
Reaching tools or grabbers can help you get to the back of your cabinets or the top of your shelves; they’re relatively inexpensive and come in different sizes and claw shapes, so you might use several grabbers to reach differently sized items.
If you must use a step stool, make sure it’s a sturdy one with a wide base and a handle that’s tall enough to keep you steady.
You’ll be safer in your home once you address fall risks such as cluttered pathways, poor lighting, and tough-to-reach necessities. Unfortunately, falls can still happen, so you’ll want to have a plan in case you lose your footing and need assistance.
If you can afford one, a medical alert system is the best option. For about $20 per month, these small devices can be worn on your person or placed in an easily accessible location. With the press of a button, they can call 911 and get you help fast. Some wearable devices even have fall-detection features that automatically contact a 911 operator if they sense a fall.
With or without a medical alert system, you’ll also want to have a phone (or phones, ideally) nearby and a list of emergency contacts. The NCOA recommends keeping a phone within arm’s reach of your bed in case you need help during the night.
And remember, as a member of Emcara Health, your care team is available to assist you by phone or in person whenever you need them—24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
With Emcara Health, your medical care team comes to you, at home, anytime you need them. Our expert doctors and nurses are focused on one thing: You. They take a proactive approach to your care, making sure you feel heard, understood, and valued—and helping you spot and treat small issues before they become big ones. That means fewer urgent care, emergency room, and hospital admissions—and a huge improvement in your overall quality of life. What’s more, your care team will coordinate your appointments with specialists and other providers and will be available to you anytime you need them.
That’s why occupational therapy is among the most important services available to you through Emcara Health. Our providers not only can help you move better, but they can also work with you to review your home set-up and eliminate risks that may lead to a fall. Call 1-800-344-1686 to schedule a free in-home consultation.