Friday, September 2, 2016

"Help Keep Falling Out Of Fall (And The Rest Of The Year)"

Fall is getting closer. Some might argue that it's here. Schools are back in session. Football has started. The signs indicating fall are there.

Soon the weather will begin to cool, and the beautiful fall color we wait for all year will make that dramatic, but all too short, appearance.

September is a transition month as we gently turn our back to summer and get ready for a change of seasons. Each year, it reminds us of the necessity of being careful in our homes by proclaiming itself "Falls Prevention Month" to coincide with the beginning of the fall season.


As we begin fall this year, let's make sure that the only type of fall we are talking about - for ourselves, our loved ones, and our clients - has to do with the weather and not one where someone is potentially injured.

Falls aren't limited to the elderly, but it seems to be more disastrous and longer lasting (even traumatic) when it happens to people who aren't quite as physically prepared to rebound well from an accidental fall.


We expect falls from the very young as they are adjusting to walking, maintaining their balance, and to life in general. Of course, they are more flexible and lower to the ground than an adult so they tend to become injured much less. Then the late teens and early twenties become a time when people try out various sports and outdoor activities - often viewed as risky by others. Young men seem to be especially vulnerable to falls from these physical adventures and the resultant head injuries or TBIs (traumatic brain injuries). 

While not true for everyone, as we get older our bones tend to become thinner and more brittle. Thus, falls become much more serious. Broken bones - especially hips - can take considerably longer to heal than is the case for a younger person and lead to other health complications.

Fall prevention relates back to personal safety and how well someone's home or apartment allows them to exist within it safely. Are the passageways open to permit free movement? Is the space comfortable? Are there obstacles that restrict mobility, storage that is out in the open rather than put away, general clutter, lose rugs or flooring, or just too much stuff that is accumulating everywhere?

Whether it is our personal residence, that of a parent or other loved one, a neighbor or someone else we know, or one that we have been retained to improve, we have a huge responsibility. As aging-in-place specialists we know the danger that clutter generates. General busyness of patterns and furniture, too much glare, and lack of contrast also contribute to potential falls because they affect balance and depth perception and can cause visual confusion..

Restricted access and passage, dizzying patterns, not enough light, and glare that hides surfaces or creates the illusion of wetness are dangers that we cannot afford to let exist as long as we have some say in correcting them. This is our challenge - for our own residences, for our relatives and friends, and for our clients.

Let's take "Falls Prevention Month" as a serious reminder - and challenge - that this is a top priority all year (and not just the month of September). We need to vigilant in creating and maintaining safe, comfortable, convenient, and accessible dwellings for everyone that we have the ability to do so.


Home safety begins at the curb and continues throughout the home into every facet of it - all the living spaces, the entrance and exit, the garage, basement, pool or spa, and backyard. Using appliances, power tools, yard equipment, cooking, preparing meals, grooming, showering, and so many other activities provide enjoyment for people or are considered essential activities, but they can be dangerous at the same time.

Fall prevention leads the list of being safe in and about our homes, but there are many other aspects of remaining safe that are important.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.