As National Safety Month has drawn to a close, I am again prompted to discuss various preventative measures and solutions for keeping one’s elder safe in their own home, outdoors and while traveling. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) “Each year, one in every three adults ages 65 or older falls and 2 million are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries. And the risk of falling increases with each decade of life. The long-term consequences of fall injuries, such as hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries (TBI), can impact the health and independence of older adults. Thankfully, falls are not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, many falls can be prevented.’ Unfortunately, the CDC also reports that “...fewer than half of those who fall talk to their healthcare provider about it. By asking three simple questions and taking action – when needed – you can reduce the risk of falling.
· Have you fallen in the past year?
· Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking?
· Do you worry about falling?”
“To help, CDC created a simple tool kit called STEADI. This stands for Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries. The STEADI tool kit includes a wealth of information that can be easily downloaded and printed for display ... Materials include:
· Assessment tools;
· Case studies;
· Videos; and
· Educational handouts for your patients.”
Additional Safety Tips for Home, Outdoor and Travel:
· ALWAYS take medication as prescribed! Some medications or combination thereof can cause dizziness or drowsiness. Request that your physician or pharmacist review your medications (prescribed, over the counter and herbal remedies) with you to discuss side effects and drug interactions. Never mix medication with alcohol.
· Regular Eye Exams: Visit your eye doctor yearly or more frequently if you notice changes in vision (i.e. blurring)
· Remove any items such as papers, books, shoes, clothing, linens, pencils which can be tripped over or slipped on.
· Install proper lighting and stable handrails in all staircases.
· Use only non-slip mats or apply double-sided tape to throw rungs in your home
· Use only non-slip mates in showers and tubs.
· Mount permanent grab bars in showers and tubs. NOTE: Temporary grab bars loosen frequently risking falls.
· Wear safe shoes whether you are indoors or out. Shoes should have neoprene or rubber soles with plenty of tread to provide better traction, the same is recommended for house shoes. Avoid leather or rubber sole shoes.
· Items you use often, keep in a cabinet which can be reached without a step stool.
· When traveling be it to a friend’s home, doctor’s appointment or long trip, plan ahead, know your route and allow extra time to safely reach your destination. Avoid short-cuts through flooded areas or those which might have snow or be icy.
· Many falls occur around vehicles. Always ensure solid footing when entering or exiting a vehicle.
· If it is necessary to shovel snow, please be sure to clear a small level area from which you can work safely. Take frequent breaks.
· Salt walkways regularly and thoroughly. Though just as slippery as regular ice, black ice is much more difficult to see.
· While warm coats, hats and gloves are a must, it is important to select appropriate footwear for winter as well. Neoprene or rubber soles with plenty of tread provide better traction on snow or ice as opposed to leather or rubber.
· If walking on slippery surfaces is unavoidable, bend body slightly forward and take shorter strides or shuffle your feet to enable better traction.
· When entering a Building in rain or snow, be sure to wipe shoes thoroughly on door mat and avoid any hard surfaces that are wet.
· Prior to driving, turn off your cell phone! A reported 26% of accidents are caused by cell phone usage, even hands free phones can cause distraction. Get plenty of rest to ensure alertness. Stop often for breaks.
· Keep car well maintained. Check tires for appropriate amount of tread to ensure road safety. Change windshield wipers as needed. Check fluid levels regularly.
· Emergency Road Kits are a Must! Pack an emergency kit which includes a warm blanket or two, pillow, flashlight, snacks, one to three days-worth of medication along with bottled water kept in a cooler which will help keep water from freezing, cell phone, cell charger, battery operated radio, reflective lights/cones, empty jar or bottle for bathroom emergencies, toilet paper, paper towels and container of kitty litter which helps if you get stuck in the snow. It is also advisable to keep updated lists of Medical Providers, Medications, Medical History, Emergency Contacts with phone numbers, etc. in your vehicle.
According to the CDC, falls in nursing homes occur frequently, in fact, an estimated 1,800 nursing home residents “die each year from fall-related injuries and those who survive frequently sustain injuries that result in permanent disability and reduced quality of life.”
To read about fall risks Elder Care Homes, please visit:
For those who would like to share their own experiences, advice which might be of help to others, questions or ideas for this Blog please feel welcome and encouraged to do so by commenting below.