“Did you hear about Mary from down the street?”
“No, what about her?
“She’s been in rehab for the last month and now they say she may never be
able to live in her old house ever again.”
“Why, what happened?”
“She slipped and fell on an old rug and broke her hip.”
“Oh, my, I have a few of those old rugs in my house too.”
Falls at home are a major reason for quality of life change in our ever-maturing population. This conversation is a little too late for Mary, but maybe not for her neighbors who are now aware of Mary’s misfortune. Falls in general are responsible for a variety of injuries from fractured wrists and ribs, to more severe shoulder, ankle and hip fractures. For many people, half the battle is simply accepting they are at risk to fall. Beyond that, are they willing to improve safety at home and what help will they need to make their homes safer? Finally, can they change “fall-risk” habits in order to reduce their chance of accidently falling? As Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So what can we do to prevent these falls in our own homes or in the homes of friends and family?
Conversations are important.
Many people see their parents getting older; they have a little bit of hope and denial that nothing bad can happen. When it does there is plenty of guilt to go around. Others fear that an “intervention” may over-step the bounds of a child-parent relationship, or may result in depriving their parents of their independence. For any adult, it is very hard to admit that they need help. That’s why it’s crucial to start a conversation about home safety and lend a helping hand when it comes to fall-proofing their home.
Where do we start?
Start with a home safety check.
- Do the floor rugs slip and fold underfoot?
- Are the stairs well lit?
- Are the steps slippery?
- Are the edges loose or broken?
- Are the railings in good repair?
- Are they stable enough to support the person’s body weight?
- Does the bathtub or shower have safety bars?
- Non-slip surfaces?
- Are the sidewalks around the home in good repair?
- Are ladders and hoses properly stored away?
- Can the loved one see well with or without glasses?
- Can the home lights be updated to brighter LED’s and save energy too?
- Are their glasses up to date?
- Do they have cataracts that need treatment and cannot see the floor?
Then build an event plan
- What happens if you call home and the person you know is home but does not answer?
- Who lives nearby?
- Does a neighbor have the key?
- Do you have the contact information for the nearest neighbor/friend?
- Do you have a current list of mom or dad’s medications, primary physician or cardiologist if they have one?
- Do you have a routine time of day that you “check in” if they are housebound?
Just a little thought and a good conversation can save lives. So, if you have an aging parent, grandparent, family member or friend, start talking. Everyone will feel better with a safer home.