Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Recognizing National Home Safety Month"

We should focus on safety in and around the home every month. It happens, however, that June is "Home Safety Month. This is an observance rather than a celebration - unless we could be assured that everyone could remain safe in their homes the entire month. Indeed, that would cause for great celebration.

This month is especially challenging because children are out of school - for families with young ones at home and for grandparents where kids are free to visit more often. It means that they are more susceptible to injuries since they are going to be playing outside more and generally be more active than during the school year. Rather than being in a classroom most of the day, they now are at home.

For everyone else, this is the longest month of the year so we are enjoying more outdoor activities at home and elsewhere. At home we are gardening, trimming, fixing things that have needed attending to over the wintertime, and other activities that may cause use to be less careful about our personal safety - falls, cuts, burns (including sunburn), insect bites and stings, allergies from plants and pollen, and muscle strains.

In addition to the normal emphasis on safety in the home that we, as aging-in-place professionals, have throughout the year, the summertime is challenging because of the extra amount of daylight hours and time spent outside.

Safety issues come with normal carelessness in leaving garden tools (rakes, hoes, shovels, and other implements) where they can be stepped on or tripped over, soft dirt from planting areas where we might slip or twist an ankle, rapidly growing grass and plants that may hide areas that we normally would avoid, grass and weeds growing onto and in pathways and sidewalks that create unsafe or uneven footing, and overexertion that comes with trying to do too much in the good weather we are experiencing.

We can never be a hundred percent effective in eliminating unsafe conditions from people's homes. We have to give it our best shot though. If someone uses a kitchen knife, box cutter, razor blade (to open a carton, cut a string, or for shaving), scissors, or a stove or cooktop, sooner or later there will be a cut or burn. It's inevitable.

People are going to attempt to reach something that is just a little beyond their grasp - whether using a stool, ladder, or chair to stand on or just reaching while standing on the floor. This could result in a slip, fall, or muscle pull.

Home are familiar places - one of the big reasons people choose to age in place. They expect that they should be able to navigate their homes effectively and safely without ever falling, tripping, or running into objects. However, we know that stumbles and loss of balance happen. This can lead to bruises, cuts, and even more severe injuries depending on the type of fall or what objects were involved.

People get careless and set items down - on stairs, stacked precariously on tables, in walkways and hallways, on countertops, and elsewhere where they shouldn't be. Sometimes those items fall onto people or can be tripped over when people aren't looking for such items to be where they are walking. Small pets and children can have the same effect on people of getting in their way and cause falls or stumbles. People often injure themselves through a fall or twisted joint in an attempt to keep from stepping on or hurting their pets or children (grandchildren) who get entangled with them.

Then there is the bathroom, the laundry room, the garage, and other areas of the home which offer challenges in addition to the kitchen. Turns out there is a lot to be watchful for in and around the home.

Homes likely will never be totally safe because life happens. However, we can do our best to anticipate events that are likely to happen based on the furnishings, general layout, and features that we see - and the activities that occur in and immediately outside the home - and make or suggest the appropriate courses of action.


Let's keep June as safe as we can.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Master 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. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.