Seniors Falling - Dangers and Prevention
As the primary caretaker of my eighty-something parents I know the dangers of seniors falling all too well. Both of my parents have fallen multiple times in the past few years despite doing our best to "fall proof" their home.
Tripping and Falling Hazards Around the Home:
Rugs & Pets
With the move back to hardwood and tile floors, some rugs are necessary in the home. As long as they lie flat rugs are usually not a problem. If one or more of your rugs have a tendency to bunch up, or someone in your home has had several close calls tripping on a rug, then by all means remove or replace it before someone actually falls on it and gets seriously hurt. You must take care of tripping hazards as they arise.
Pets are always underfoot and therefore a tripping hazard, but for most seniors worth the risk. Perhaps a bigger problem is bringing pets into a senior's home who is not used to them being in the way. I suggest that until the senior gets used to the guest pet being underfoot, keep a close eye on the pet and remove them from the area when they present a tripping hazard.
Bathtubs used for showering are perhaps one of the most dangerous falling hazards in your home. Most, if not all "no-slip" vinyl strips on the market today are ineffective and dangerous, providing little traction for the person standing on them. When my parents purchased their home the tub had abrasive strips running the length of the tub. Those strips provided a good slip-resistant surface. However, after we had our tub refinished, I could only find "no-slip" vinyl strips (basically raised patterns on vinyl tape) to replace the abrasive strips. I tried two different brands of no-slip vinyl strips and placed them all over the bottom of the tub. I felt they were unsafe but my mother, the primary user of the tub insisted they would be all right. Several months ago she slipped and fell in the tub while showering and fractured her skull.
I've since found that 3M makes abrasive tape strips and they are sold for use on stair treads. They come in assorted colors and transparent. No mention is made as to whether or not they can be used in a bathtub but unless someone says otherwise I don't see why not.
In my opinion tub showers are a tragedy waiting to happen. If you, a parent or grand parent are using a tub shower I strongly recommend that you/they consider using an alternative dedicated shower stall or use a shower chair and a hand-held shower. If you must use the tub investigate abrasive anti-slip strips (not the worthless vinyl strips), install grab bars for stability, and it wouldn't hurt to add a waterproof boat cushion at the far end of the tub just in case of a fall.
Stairways also rank high as a falling hazard for seniors. My parents home is a tri-level. From the main living area you must go up or down a flight of stairs to get to a bathroom, go to a bedroom or leave the house. Throughout the years there have been many close calls on the stairs, and recently my father fell when he thought he was on the landing but still had a stair to go. Only a large Rubbermaid container set on the floor hours before broke his fall, sparing him from going face first into the tile floor.
Despite the accident and my constant reminders to "hold the railing", I have seen them quickly become complacent - my father going down the stairs with both hands in his coat pockets, my mother attempting to carry a casserole dish down the stairs (both hands on the dish). Seniors themselves must practice safe behaviors, it only takes one bad fall to end up in a nursing home.
Cords, Cables, Wires, Clutter
If cables, cords, or wires must lay in an area of the floor where a senior will cross, we recommend that you purchase cable concealers used in offices. Many of these products are designed to reduce the danger of tripping on them.. Most major office supply stores carry this type of product.
Clutter (shoes, bags, boxes and other items) placed in or near walkways are tripping hazards. Grandkids are some of the worst offenders for leaving their shoes near stairs or in other walkways. Seniors, and everyone who enters their home needs to practice fall prevention by keeping clutter out of the way.
Some chairs, especially cheap office chairs, have a tendency to dump occupants on the floor if they lean too far over (tying a shoe, or picking something off the floor for example). Though usually not as bad as other types of falls, any time a senior falls down a risk of severe injury exists, especially for seniors with bone fragility or those on blood thinners. If you have a know of a chair like this toss it. The safety of you or your family is more important than the cost of the chair.
Falls are one of the quickest ways for senior citizens to become disabled and lose their independence. Luckily, most falls by senior citizens can be prevented if seniors and their families practice fall prevention techniques such as those mentioned above.