Friday, November 17, 2017

"When Bad Things (Falls, For Instance) Happen To Good People"

Home safety should be a continuous focus for us as we evaluate homes and how people use them. People deserve to feel safe from injury in their homes, but this is so much easier said than accomplished.

There are many types of possible injuries in the home - burns, cuts, falls, walking into objects, having something fall and land on a hand or foot, or being injured while operating a tool, appliance, or piece of equipment. It's almost easier to think of ways a person can be injured in the home (or outside in the yard) than it is to remain safe.

While September is the officially designated "Falls Prevention Month," every month - make that every day - is a time when we want to focus on eliminating as many potential tripping, collision, slipping, and poor footing conditions for people in their homes as we can - including those present in our own homes.

Nevertheless, as much as we try to prevent falls and as dangerous as they can be for people, falls do happen. Try to imagine just how much more they might occur or how much more serious or debilitating they might be if we weren't focused on preventing and eliminating as many likely trips and falls as we can. 

There are just so many things in and about a person's home - let alone places away from the home - that can cause accidents. All falls and slips are uncomfortable - if not embarrassing - but not all are injurious. Many are.

Sometimes it's just a slip or a fall that produces no lasting effects - maybe just a bruise or a slight muscle strain, if anything. Sometimes, the strain or sprain can be a little more severe. Sometimes, a broken bone or dislocation results. When it's a broken hip, there can be more serious complications as well. Even when it seems to be something minor, it can affect a person's mobility for a time or make them less sure of themselves as they navigate their home and property.

Regardless of the severity of a fall or slip, the objective is to eliminate as many potential causes for such conditions as we can. There are the obvious places where a person can be tripped, such as extension or power cords that cross a passageway, or a hose stretched across the sidewalk. There are pools of water from rain or lawn and garden watering that can look simple enough to walk on or through but become problematic. 

Toys, clothing and outerwear, tools, groceries before they are put away, and things on their way to the garage, attic, closet, basement, or car can cause someone to trip over them or misstep as they try to walk around or avoid them.

Look carpeting or flooring, tears in carpeting or vinyl flooring, glare from shiny surfaces, and loose throw or area rugs (or ones with the corners curled up) can present navigation issues in the home. Wet flooring in the bathroom or from moisture tracked in from the outside (near exterior doorways) can lead to slips. 

In short, the idea that someone's home is their castle or sanctuary comes with no guarantees. It isn't automatically true. There are so many things going on - nearly constantly - that people need to watch out for and then correct to keep their homes relatively safe. The more we are aware of how people use their homes and the potential for danger that exists in living in and getting around in their dwelling space, the more we can point out and correct obvious trouble spots when we see them.

While we can reduce the potential for slipping and tripping in the home, there are additional issues to contend with in the living space that make safety more of a challenge. Poor vision can mean walking into objects, misstepping, slipping on a step, or misjudging the height of a chair, bed, or table. Glare can mask items from view or confuse our eyes to where seeing the edges of objects or being able to perceive or recognize where they are in relation to other items in the room becomes a safety concern.

Maintaining a safe home environment is not easy, but we have to remain diligent. Otherwise, people are going to be at risk in the living environment, and this is something that we don't want to have happen.

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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.