According to statistics Canada, 63.7% of seniors reported they were injured in a fall in 2009. Clearly falling is an issue affecting a significant proportion of our senior population and is a sizeable concern for those of us with senior loved ones who have chosen to age in place at home.
While it is true that balance, eyesight and reflexes are compromised with age, there are a number of precautions that can be taken to keep seniors safe and fall-free. Below is an excerpted list of common but easily preventable falls and slips as well as solutions on how to minimize the occurrence of each one.
Outside the Home
Problem: Poor visibility at night
Solution: Ensure there are adequate lights or install motion lights
Problem: Tripping hazards caused by yard clutter, garden tools, or other outdoor equipment or recreation items
Solution: Take the good housekeeping vigilance outside and put away all items when not in use
Problem: Uneven ground, paving or transition zones
Solution: Level ground, repave, install handrails. You can also bring attention to these areas by using bright paint or contrasting colours
Problem: Slippery conditions due to snow, ice, or leaves
Solution: Ensure stairs and walkways are kept clear of hazardous conditions and install handrails
Floors, Stairs, and Travel Routes
Problem: Home furnishings and decor creates traffic-flow problems and tripping or loss of balance issues
Solution: Rearrange furniture and home decor items to create easily accessible traffic routes that ensure ease of travel and maintenance of balance
Problem: Area or throw rugs create a slipping or tripping hazard
Solution: Eliminate throw rugs. If your sense of style refuses to eliminate the rugs, use double-sided tape or nonskid backing to stabilize area and secure corners to the floor. Eliminate those rugs with tassels or fringe.
Problem: Wires and cords create tripping hazard
Solution: Move all wires and cords against walls. Use extension cords and rearrange furnishings and appliances to better locations for outlet use or rewire outlets
Problem: Tripping and slipping hazards are left on floors and travel routes
Solution: Always put things away, paying particular attention to maintaining floors and travel routes clear of clutter
Problem: Lighting or shadowing makes visibility and depth perception a problem
Solution: Ensure routes and stairs are adequately lit to maximize vision. Install night-lights in any areas traveled at night
Problem: Difficult travel areas create balance hazards
Solution: Ensure stairs, uneven outdoor areas, and slippery zones have adequate and secure handrails and grab bars
For further information on how to age in place safely and gracefully, our latest book on the subject by eldercare experts Yvonne Poulin and Gordon Morrison has excellent advice on small adaptations and renovations that can help improve the quality of life seniors experience in their homes.