by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
May is Older American Month. Is your home or the home of elderly parents or friends safe? This is a good time to check homes for risk factors that can cause falls. Falls are a problem for all ages and one of the most common causes for loss of independence. According to the National Aging I & R Support Center, National Association of State Units on aging it is estimated one-third to one-half of all home accidents, including falls, can be prevented by making modifications in the home. Consider the following when checking your home:
Are the light switches at the entrance into the room? Is there a straight path, clear of furniture? Are there electric cords or wires that may be a tripping hazzard? Check and repair any furniture that is unsteady.
Are there safety rails at the tub and grab-handles by the toilet? (Towel racks should not be considered grab-handles. Install non-skid strips or use a non skid bath mat. A shower seat and hand held shower allows people to shower while sitting. Raising the toilet seat may be helpful.Bedroom
Is the light switch at the door so no one has to cross a dark room to turn on a light? Is there a light close to the bed or attached to the headboard? Check the placement of furniture. Are beds and chairs the proper height? When the occupant is sitting, feet should touch the floor with knees comfortably bent.Kitchens
Are there floor mats or rugs that could be tripping hazards? If rugs are used be sure they have a slip-resistant backing. Are the cupboards and drawers arranged so the most used items are waist high. Is a step stool available? Chairs should never be used as a step stool. Use a long-handled “grab-it” tool or stool with a bar to hold onto to reach items stored above the head.Hallways, Stairs and Door Thresholds
Are the stairs and hallways well lit? Check handrails to make sure they are sturdy. Rails on both sides of the stairs are helpful. Remove any clutter from the stairs to reduce tripping. Modify door thresholds to be no more than ¼ inch high or beveled no more than ½ inch high. Are floor covering fastened securely? Secure loose floor covering with double-faced tape, adhesive or tacks.
In addition to these areas, be sure there is protection against fire. Install one or more smoke detectors in homes. Have a fire escape plan for your home and help others know the best route for escape from their home. Check to see newspapers and other items are not piled in the garage, attic or storeroom.
Install a carbon monoxide detector to protect against the silent killer.
Check the home for radon.
Remember the falls and accidents happen to people of all ages. Take time to do a safety check in your home or apartment and parents or relatives home.