Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Let's Not Have Fall Apply To Us Or Anyone We Know"

Fall is a beautiful time of year. After a long and hot summer, it's great to get the cooler air, nice breezes, and a beautiful display of color from the trees before they shed their leaves for the year. Did someone say football?

Technically this season is known as autumn, but most of us also know it as fall. The leaves are falling from the trees - probably where we get the name for the season.

As the leaves are dropping and blowing about, we want to make sure that we are among what is falling - us, our loved one, people we know, and our clients. Falls are so prevalent - especially as we age - and they potentially are very dangerous. Falls in the home, notably in the bathroom, are a leading cause of death and serious injury among older people.

Our homes are supposed to be a safe haven for us, yet falls make it unsafe and potentially deadly. No one wants this to be the case, so we must do all that we can to help minimize and eliminate conditions that lead to falls throughout the home - and especially in the bath and shower area.

We have the ability to help people assess and evaluate their homes for safety issues and to devise a plan of action to rectify any situations that exist. In the bath, wet areas on the floor and in the bath and shower can create very slippery conditions. A strategically placed vertical grab or assist bar near the entrance to the tub or shower can provide a steady support for anyone as they enter or leave the bathing area.

In a similar way, the integrated grab bar - available from several manufacturers and suppliers - combines a well-designed grab bar with commonly seen and used items in the bath and shower that would be used by people for support even if they weren't specially designed to assist them. Items such as shelves, soap dishes, toilet paper holders, and towel bars might be used for support anyway so it's great when they are designed and built to serve in this capacity. We just need to make sure we have them installed for people so they can work when the lighter duty products that are not so designed might fail.

Bathmats and other loose rugs in the bath and elsewhere in the home are another reason why people fall. They slip on these items as they step or walk on them and the rugs slide on the floor. Tripping over or stumbling against the edge of a throw rug, bath mat, or small mat in front of the sink (kitchen or bath) are safety concerns also.

Walking on carpeting - even that which is attached to flooring underneath it fairly well - can cause people to stumble and fall as they slip, loose their balance, or have the carpeting grab hold of their shoe or footwear. When there is an uneven transition between two types of flooring - from carpeting to tile or hardwood or between hardwood and tile - a person might stumble over the change and loose their balance or fall.

Using ladders or step stools and over-reaching for items on high shelves are other reasons that people can fall - as is getting up too quickly from a seated position. Inspecting people's homes and then making as many safety corrections as we can is a great way to improve safety - so is alerting them to some of the more common ways that people are injured in their homes from slipping, tripping, or falling.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, C.E.A.C., 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.