Preventing falls at home
Some months ago on the “Aging Boomers” radio show, I interviewed various members of the Fall Prevention Team at the Area Agency on Aging to discuss their “Matter of Balance” program, which assists seniors for their everyday needs to help prevent falls. Last week, I also had the opportunity to interview Marc Mendelsohn, president of Safe Aging Solutions, which specializes in healthy and affordable solutions for safe and independent living. (Both interviews can be accessed at Seniorcareuthority.com.)
This is an important topic. According to AARP nearly 90% of seniors want to stay in their homes as they age, which is no surprise, but the most substantial risk and threat to living independently at home are falls. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related visits to the emergency room in the U.S. and represent the cause of 75% of the accidental deaths in people over 65. Falls also resulted in 85% of the non-fatal hospital injuries for people 65 and over.
Fortunately, a lot can be done to make homes safer for seniors in preventing falls. I personally visited Safe Aging Solutions showroom in Sonoma, and it was quite clear that there is now a large choice of product and equipment to choose from at home to decrease the chance of falls. Much of what is available is now also attractive and appropriate for use in a personal residence rather than an institutional setting.
Safe entry into and out of the home is tantamount. If stairs are present and the senior is able to negotiate them without issue, hand rails can be installed to match the homes décor that offer added stability. All surfaces need to be non-slip and if not should be changed to surfaces that are. This can be achieved by applying a non-slip surface over the existing medium. When stairs are a challenge, stair chair lifts, platforms lifts and elevators are all options limited only by individual budget. Basic ramping installed with a non-slip surface offers another option. Automatic door openers are a wonderful option for both interior and exterior doors.
When a pool is present in the home an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) pool lift can make all the difference in safely entering and leaving the pool.
Bathrooms are singularly responsible for more accidents than any other place in the home and as a result walk in tubs and showers have become very popular. A walk in curb-less shower allows for access without needing to step over a curb and there are also wheelchair accessible showers that allow access in a wheelchair or with a walker.
Walk in bathtubs allow safe access while stepping over a low curb through en entry door instead of negotiating the high sides typical in standard tubs. When in the tub bathtub grab bars offer added support and there are now options in hundreds of colors and finishes to match your personal décor. The same goes for other handicap grab bars in other locations.
Toilet safety rails that fold up and out of the way when not in use add tremendous safety value around the toilet area. Many choices of bathroom safety bars are also available such as the Superpole for support in getting up and down wherever necessary. Comfort height toilets, which are higher than standard toilets, can be installed with color along with coordinated toilet grab bars, offer safe use in the toilet area. A qualified bathroom designer can include all the necessary items in your bathroom design, rendering it both safe and attractive for years to come.
In the kitchen area and even in small kitchen designs there are some fantastic choices for safe access. When reach is an issue adjustable height kitchen cabinets are an option. If sitting is necessary while cooking a height adjustable sink and adjustable height cook tops are all options. Here again an experienced certified kitchen designer can assist you with all the options available today.
Thank you to Marc Mendelsohn from Aging Safety Solutions for his valuable input on the products available to assist in helping to prevent falls for the elderly at home. He can be reached at 707.343. 7008.
Frank M. Samson, CSA, is a Certified Senior Advisor and Founder of Senior Care Authority based in Sonoma (Seniorcareauthority.com.) The company provides support to families throughout California in helping them locate the best In-Home Care, Dementia Care, Independent and Assisted Living for their loved ones. Frank also hosts “The Aging Boomers” on KSVY 91.3FM and Sunfmtv.com. Reach him at 939.8744 or Frank@seniorcareauthority.com.