By Mary Boone
Wet bathroom floors, uneven stairs, loose rugs and clutter are just a few of the culprits that make falling the leading cause of home injury deaths. According to the National Safety Council, home falls claim nearly 6,000 lives and account for 8.9 million visits to the emergency department each year.
Older adults are the most frequent victims of falls, with those 65 and older being four times more likely to die as the result of a fall than those in all other age groups. Falls are also the No. 1 reason children end up in hospital emergency rooms.
A quick check of your home will help reduce hazards and improve your odds of staying on your feet:
People tend to fall more often on short flights of steps than longer ones; a recent study found 80 percent of stairway falls took place on stairs with five or fewer steps.
Keep stairs clear of clutter and repair or replace loose or uneven stair treads. Make sure the carpet is firmly attached to every step or non-slip rubber treads to bare stairs. Make sure handrails are secure; both sides of the steps should have handrails.
Lighting is a key to preventing falls. If your staircase has no overhead light, have one installed and make certain there are on-off switches at both the top and the bottom of the stairway.
Uneven floor boards are sure hazards – get them repaired.
Rugs, including area rugs, must be secured to the floor with non-skid pads or double-sided tape. Small throw rugs that can easily bunch up and trip you have no place in your home – toss them out.
Have grab bars installed, and use them whenever you get in and out of the tub or shower. Major manufacturers have worked to make these essential accessories more stylish than they once were.
Non-slip strips in the tub and shower are helpful. Also take the time to secure your bath mat with double-sided rug tape.
Stop climbing on chairs and counters to reach things you need. Move frequently used dishes and appliances to lower, easy-to-reach cabinets. If you must get something off a stop shelf, use a step stool with a bar at the top to hold on to.
Let there be light
Place nightlights in hallways, bedrooms, stairways and bathrooms. Have extra switches installed or place floor and table lamps so that you don’t have to walk across a dark room to turn on a light. It’s especially important to make certain entryways and sidewalks are well lit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, household pets – namely dogs and cats – are responsible for more than 86,000 fall-related injuries each year. Women, children under age 15 and people ages 35 to 54 are most apt to suffer a pet-related fall.
You don’t have to get rid of Fido, but you must be careful he doesn’t tangle himself up in your legs, especially as you go up and down stairs. Be diligent in training your pet and be aware that pet toys, beds and bowls are also trip hazards.
Uneven joints and cracked, damaged sidewalks are major hazards. Do what you can to repair or replace the walkways around your home. Ensure there are sturdy handrails on both side of exterior steps and promptly remove leaves, snow and ice removed from sidewalks and stairs.