Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"Our Seniors Need To Be Staying At Home, Not In The ER"

As aging in place professionals, we are interested in helping people remain in their homes - and to continue living there safely and independently. We don't like to think of anything unpleasant that might happen to people in their homes, but we know that little mishaps and accidents - cuts, burns, and muscle strains, for instance - are a fact of life. What we don't like to see happen are falls.

With September being National Falls Prevention Month, our awareness is heightened to doing everything we can to alleviate situations in people's homes that may cause a slip, trip, stumble, loss of balance, or a fall.

One of the areas of the home where falls seem to occur the most and where they tend to be the most serious is the bathroom. When people are bathing or showering, they typically aren't wearing anything that would give them protection from impact. Unlike doing yardwork or gardening where someone might have long sleeves or heavy pants to protect their skin, or goggles or other types of protective devices, these are absent in the bathroom. The fall is compounded, and the seriousness of it is increased, due to the lack of clothing or other protection that people are wearing.  Head injuries that are sustained in the bathroom happen because nothing was being worn that would have cushioned or absorbed the impact.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports, in “Older Adult Falls: A Growing Danger, (February 2, 2017, cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/steadi_mediafactsheet-a.pdf), that an elderly American falls an average of every second. That means just in the time it took to read this far in this post that several people have been impacted by falls in their home - and principally, in the bathroom.

To further put the seriousness of falls into context, more than half, or 55%, of all unintentional injury deaths result from falls, and falls are the leading cause of injury or death among Americans aged 65 and over according again to the CDC (“Deaths From Unintentional Injury Among Adults Aged 65 and Over: United States, 2000–2013," May 6, 2015, cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db199.htm).

Additionally, these falls at home are serious enough to require immediate medical attention. Each year, the CDC reports that more than 2.8 million elderly adults are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. (“Important Facts about Falls.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," September 20, 2016, cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/adultfalls.html).

The majority of falls in the home (80%) occur in the bathroom “Making Bathrooms Safe for Seniors.” Consumer Affairs, July 18, 2016, consumeraffairs.com/news/making-bathrooms-safe-for-seniors-041013.html), 
and one in five falls (20%) results in a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury (TBI).

Many aging issues - decreasing vision, muscle control, and balance, for instance -plus those attributable to progressive conditions contribute to safety issues in the bathroom. Slippery surfaces, lack of dependable objects to grab onto, entering or exiting the tub or shower, sitting down on or rising from the toilet, and just navigating the bathroom can present safety concerns.

As aging in place professionals, and CAPS-trained specifically, we understand these issues and are prepared to spot them and make the necessary modifications, subject to budget and extent of renovations required.

Keeping people at home is our number one objective - this means keeping them safe and out of the emergency room also.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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.