| Experts help families 'senior safety-proof' homes
One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year and nearly a third of them will live with discomfort from the fall for the rest of their lives. Caregivers can help spot danger zones in seniors' homes and help families make their homes safer.
"Up to 30 percent of those who fall suffer injuries such as hip fractures or head traumas," says Peter Ross, CEO and co-founder of Senior Helpers, an in-home care provider. "Those types of injuries not only make it hard for seniors to live independently, but those injuries can sometimes be fatal." Here are some guidelines.
Safety proofing the home
• Remove boxes, newspapers and electrical cords from halls.
• Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
• Help repair loose, wooden floor boards and carpeting right away.
• Store clothing, dishes, food, medication and all necessities within reach.
Add safety devices:
• Hand rails for both sides of the bed.
• Non-slip treads for wooden steps.
• Raised toilet seat or one with arm rests.
• Grab bars for shower or tub.
• Sturdy plastic seat for shower or tub plus hand-held shower nozzle.
Checking seniors' shoes
• Get rid of high heels, floppy slippers, shoes with slick soles.
• Have foot size measured each time seniors buy shoes — foot size changes and shoes that are too big can make you fall.
• Avoid extra-thick soles.
Light up living space
• Place night lights in bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
• Place lamp near side of bed.
• Consider switching traditional light switches for glow in the dark switches.
Exercising regularly — help seniors with activities that increase leg strength and improve balance in seniors, such as Tai Chi.
Take seniors for eye check-ups — make sure seniors have their eyes checked by a doctor at least once a year and have their eyeglasses updated as needed. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for activities such as walking outside.
Review medications — have a doctor or pharmacist review medications/prescriptions to let them know what may cause side effects, such as dizziness or drowsiness.
"When seniors fall, they usually develop a fear of falling, even if they're not injured," says Ross. "That fear can easily turn into a senior choosing to limit their physical activity which in turn increases their risk of falling again. That's where our caregivers come in; they help to prevent falls and help seniors cope with fall-related fears they may already have."
Did you know?
• In 2008, 82 percent of fall deaths were among people 65 and older.
• In 2008, more than 19,700 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.
• Fall-related fractures occur more than twice the rate for older women than for older men.
• More than 90 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls. And white women have significantly higher hip fracture rates than black women.
• Direct medical costs of falls equaled $28.2 billion last year alone.
For more information, please see www.seniorhelpers.com.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic