October Injury Prevention
Falls are especially dangerous for people 65 and over. A fractured hip can be devastating and may cause the elderly to lose their independence by having to go to physical rehabilitation or extended care facilities for recovery.
The cost of falls is enormous in both dollars and in the effect on the person and their families. In 2000, costs resulting from falls in the U.S. (including hospitalization, emergency care, recovery facility charges and home health) was $19 billion. It is expected that these costs will rise as the boomer population ages to $54.9 billion by 2020.
Many of these falls and the subsequent costs are avoidable with foresight and planning. There are multiple factors to be considered in fall reduction. By using this home safety checklist, fall hazards can be reduced with a little time and ingenuity.
Home Safety Checklist
- Is the entrance to the home cleared of clutter or debris? In general, all clutter needs to be removed from all walk areas including the stairs.
- If there are steps to the entrance, is a secure handrail present?
- Can you see who is approaching your door from inside without opening the door?
- Is the lock fully functioning? Is there a deadbolt?
- Are all the living areas easily accessible?
- Are walkways cleared of clutter?
- Are seating areas such as chairs and sofas stationed at heights that are easy from which to rise?
- Are light switches within easy reach?
- Are extension cords hidden and out of the walk path? Are throw rugs out of the walk area or secured with double faced carpet tape?
- Are telephones in easy reach of a favorite chair? In the bathroom? In the bedroom?
- Is there a usable system for notifying someone of an emergency? Are emergency numbers by the phones? Does someone check on the senior family member frequently by phone or in person?
- Are kitchen cabinets the right height for the person living there? Counter tops easily reached? Cabinets reachable without a step stool? **Helpful hint: Put most frequently used foodstuffs, plates, pots, pans and plastic storage dishes on low shelves so the person doesn’t have to stretch or reach and lose their balance.
- If a stepstool is needed, is it in good, stable repair?
- If an indoor staircase is present, are there handrails on both sides? Is a light switch available at the top and the bottom of the stairs?
- Are non-skid strips or bath mats available in the bath area? Are grab bars present in tub/shower, and by the toilet?
- Are assistive devices needed, such as a raised toilet seat?
- Is a working smoke detector present on each floor and outside the bedrooms?
- Are rooms well-lit? Is “task” lighting available for hand work or reading?
- Are all medications clearly marked with the name of the medication, the dosage, and time to be taken? Are medications kept in the original containers? Are labels easy to read?
This list and a careful walk-through will alert you to problem areas needing immediate attention. Print this list and carry it with you, checking off needed repair items as you inspect the surroundings. Generally the “fixes” are very easy and can make the difference in your family member’s life. Taking action as needed gives you and your senior peace of mind.