Staying Safe So You Can Stay At Home
June is National Safety Month and we here at Accessible Systems are pretty excited about it. Accessibility and home safety for older adults and people with disabilities are two of our primary missions. We love to help the elderly maintain their independence and quality of life which often includes staying in the home they love.
To honor this month we would like to take this opportunity to highlight common home situations that can increase the risk of injury and ways to reduce those risks. Awareness and education are the first steps to staying safe.
Caretakers, friends and family can all get involved in making the home safer for older adults and people with disabilities. It will take a group effort since every day more than 10,000 Americans will turn 65 years old. Injuries and the cost of these injuries are expected to dramatically rise. And beyond the age factor, fall injury rates are almost seven times higher for adults in poor health than for those in excellent health.
The process of making the home safer can be overwhelming. Starting with basic steps can make it more manageable. Simple things like eliminating throw rugs, de-cluttering walk ways and wearing rubber-soled shoes help reduce the risk of falling throughout the house. Hand rails are important around stairs to help with balance and support. Installing grab bars in the shower, bath and near the toilet give support in the room where most falls occur.
For older adults and people with limited balance and strength, the bathroom is the most hazardous room in the house. Climbing in and out of the tub, getting on and off the toilet and slippery surfaces are the main reasons this room is so accident prone.
According to the CDC in their report on Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries:
Approximately 80% of all bathroom injuries were caused by falls, with the highest injury rates in the oldest age groups. All persons, but especially older adults, should be aware of bathroom activities that are associated with a high risk for injury and of environmental modifications that might reduce that risk.
Injury rates were higher in women. Studies consistently have shown that women are at higher risk than men for falling and for sustaining fall-related injuries. This difference might be related to gender differences in physical activity, lower-body strength, bone mass, circumstances surrounding the fall, or greater willingness to seek medical treatment.
It is worth noting a few other factors that increase the risk of falling. As stated above, women are more susceptible to falls than men. For both genders, overall health, bone density and changes in vision and hearing can affect stability. Special precautions should be taken when starting new medications that might affect coordination and balance.
Education and increasing awareness of potentially hazardous activities in the bathroom and throughout the home are key to decreasing the risk of falling. Simple modifications to the home can greatly decrease the risk of injury. Please contact us for a free resource guide to accessible living for people of all ages and abilities.
1. CDC. Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries Among Persons Aged ≥15 Years — United States, 2008 Weekly June 10, 2011 / 60(22);729-733