Monday, September 26, 2016

"Safety, Especially From Falls, Requires Constant Diligence From Us"

Safety anywhere is an important concept, and being and feeling safe in one's home is vital. We have a huge responsibility to help people achieve this basic need, whether it is in helping people pinpoint and identify what can be done to make their homes safer and more enjoyable or through creating aging-in-place and universal design solutions that eliminate unsafe conditions in their homes.

Safety is not an absolute concept that can be established and achieved because things happen. No matter how careful someone is, accidents can and do happen. All we can do is minimize the opportunity for those to occur by creating the most accessible and friendly home environments that we can.

Falls can happen with just a momentary lapse in concentration or focus although we can be instrumental in eliminating areas of glare, slippery or loose flooring, potential tripping hazards, and general clutter that making navigating the home more difficult than it should.

On the calendar, fall or autumn has officially begun, and we are still in the midst of Falls Prevention Month. However, preventing falls is not just something we should focus on every September or just on the autumnal equinox. It requires constant diligence and effort - daily. We we take this seriously, our clients will have a much better chance of remaining upright and healthy.

There are medical reasons for people losing the balance or becoming dizzy and then falling. Our challenge is to prevent and eliminate those non-medical moments when someone might trip or slip because of something in their way as they walk through their home - or something that obscures or challenges their vision or depth perception such as reflected light off a shiny surface (otherwise known as glare).

Falls aren't our only concern in keeping people safe in their homes, but it is huge and something we can actively work to reduce or nearly eliminate. By looking at where and how furniture is located, making sure that it contrasts enough with its surrounding and especially the floor, keeping passageways clear, and reducing the use of overly bold, busy, or confusing patterns in flooring, wall coverings, or furniture fabrics, we can help people remain safe in their homes.

We can never be a hundred percent effective in eliminating unsafe conditions from people's homes because we aren't there living them all the time. We can't necessarily know what goes on after we leave or how someone might place something in a space that will cause them to stumble or trip over it. We just have to give it our best shot and be as thorough and as perceptive as we can.

People expect their homes to provide a reasonable amount of safety for them - especially when compared to the relative perils of the outside world. Public spaces are unpredictable with vehicle traffic, other people around them, crowded sidewalks and elevators, and other spaces that aren't always going to be favorable to them. Venturing from home - while necessary - presents its own set of challenges, whether it is going to work, shopping, or just out for recreation.

Someone's home should be able to allow them to navigate it well without the fear of falling, tripping, or running into objects. We know that stumbles and loss of balance happen, but we can eliminate as many potential hazards and unsafe conditions as we see and educate our clients on how to keep their homes that way.

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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.