Articles about home safety are featured regularly in popular newsletters and magazines. Low and no cost home modifications are quick fixes. Many of them you can do yourself or with minimum professional assistance. Handrails installed along staircases and in hallways, grab bars, improved lighting, and non-slip treads are at the top of most lists because the results are good.
The real question is why people do not implement simple fall prevention strategies. Questionnaires and studies indicate that most people understand the importance of fall prevention, but are reluctant to follow through:
Most feel that they have pretty good reasons for not wanting to make changes, but are they good enough? For example:
Are these reasons good enough? Are you interested in knowing how to prevent a fall or would you rather just wait to see what happens?
Before you say anything, think about the two million people who are treated for fall related injuries every year. When a senior falls it is probably going to be more serious than a stubbed toe or a broken fingernail; we are talking about the real likelihood of brain injuries, hip fractures, immobility or even death.
Most falls are preventable. What are you going to do the next time you read an article on fall prevention?
People fall down. Kids fall down, athletes fall down, and even healthy adults have been known to slip off a curb or trip over their own feet. Concussions, broken bones and other incidentals are quickly treated and life goes on, but when older people fall they have more to fear.
Osteoporosis, arthritis, and other age related maladies make older people more susceptible to injury falls than say a 10 year old falling off a bike. Why am I writing about falls again? I took a tumble a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t hurt myself but a fall always makes me wonder “what if?” I probably should be reconsidering risky behaviors, but it is hard to stop if fun is involved. Maybe next time; I was just looking up while drifting backwards to hit an overhead smash during a tennis drill. Yes, I hit the ball but at the same time lost my balance and ended up on my butt. Is it time to address fall prevention or should I wait until I am wearing a cast?
Most fall prevention programs address leg muscle weakness, poor vision and environmental hazards, but that isn’t enough. Recently I read several new articles on the subject and they put a different spin on the story.
By now you are probably wondering if you need to wrap yourself in cotton batten and not do anything at all, but it doesn’t work that way. You still need to be active if you are going to reap the benefits of muscle strengthening exercises. The other thing is that you can learn how to fall. When I was a sweet young thing I took Judo lessons. The first lesson was all about learning how to fall. We practiced a rolling fall while slapping our arms on the mat (instead of landing on stiff arms). I seem to remember that as I usually find myself tucking and rolling when I fall. The one time I didn’t was the one time I got hurt. I wasn’t prepared because I was standing still (albeit on roller skates) when it happened; my feet flew out from under me. I tried to catch myself using my hands and wrists; not a good idea. Ouch.
The moral of the story is that falls can happen at any age; prevention is always a good idea. Work on muscle strengthening and balance, learn how to fall, learn how to get up, and be careful.
Everyone panics a bit when the topic of remodeling comes up; visions of dollar signs and a lot of hard work come to mind, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
What if I told you that a trip to your favorite home improvement store for a few cans of paint and a handful of light fixtures would be good way to start? You don’t have to spend a fortune to take those first tentative steps toward making your home (or the home of a parent) a safer and more inviting place to live.
Visual impairment is one of the top reasons for loss of independence. Overall light levels for seniors needs to be 25-50% brighter than one might suppose, so for heaven’s sake get rid of those 40 and 60 watt bulbs and start exploring various ways to increase the amount of light in the house.
Explore the world of light bulbs and light fixtures. Ask about fluorescent fixtures, incandescent bulbs, track lights, and natural lighting. You goal will be to provide bright but gentle overall lighting while decreasing glare and minimizing shadowy areas.
Be especially mindful of good lighting in the bathroom and kitchen. Stairwells and entry ways can never be bright enough, and embrace the idea of motion sensors. Little things like the reflection of light bouncing off a polished wood table, a shiny counter, or glass framing a work of art can be positively blinding to someone with sensitive eyes. Overall lighting in rooms and in outdoor areas such as garden or backyard will make a home inviting and functional.
You are probably wondering why I mentioned cans of paint. Have you ever noticed the way light bounces off from a wall painted with glossy paint? It really does, and the same applies to floor tiles. Think about decreasing glare by repainting walls with low gloss paint in warm inviting colors, and by using low gloss floor tiles.
Use contrasting colors to differentiate one area from another. For example: door frames should be different colors than walls and other trims. Floors and walls should be of different colors and handrails should be readily visible against a wall. Little improvements can make a difference.
What do you think? A trip to the hardware store and you can get started with a few cans of paints, window treatments, and light fixtures. You will be so pleased with the results that you will be ready to take on more do-it-yourself projects in the future. Please share your ideas and success stories for home improvements on a budget.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a light bulb over 60 watts anymore? It tickled me when I heard a fellow shopper expressed the same sentiments the other day (sometimes I feel that I rant alone). Well lit rooms seem to be out of vogue or else energy efficiency is more important than being able to see.
Being able to see is important. Losing the ability to see well is a huge threat to independent living. Older people need more light. I get very frustrated when I stay in a vacation rental or visit people who think those bulbs with 60 watts or less are a good thing. Doesn’t anybody read anymore?
Everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, reading or even being able to tell if you have spots on your tee shirt are difficult without adequate lighting. Age related changes, whether due to cataract, macular degeneration, glaucoma or just plain aging eyes mean decreased visual acuity.
Older people freely admit that they need more light to perform the same activities that they used to do with ease, but few people are consciously aware that bad lighting is threatening their well being. Appropriate lighting is known to prevent falls, depression, sleep disorders and loss of independence.
Many people don’t know how to buy good lighting products or how to adjust the lighting in their homes for maximum efficiency. When the light level is increased and glare is avoided, older adults can see better:
Adequate lighting throughout the house is important. Older people need higher light levels, even illumination, elimination of glare and task lighting to facilitate independent living. Keep in mind these simple tenets:
After much searching I discovered that three-way light bulbs still come in 50-100-150 increments and a few 100 watt bulbs are still on the shelves (if you look hard enough) but guess what, they are really expensive. It might be just me but I would love to hear what others are doing to enhance lighting in their rooms.
People are living longer and they are healthier, but they still make mistakes when it comes to their own health and well-being. Ten years ago The Institute of Healthcare Advancement published a list of common health care mistakes made by seniors. The list is still relevant today. The list serves as a reminder of how “refusing” to use common sense can be detrimental to your well-being.
Declaring independence is more than stubbornly refusing to move out of the family home. When you declare your independence you are making a statement. You are telling everyone that you will do whatever it takes to remain active and in control.
If independent living is your goal you need to be mindful of how to protect yourself. Fall prevention is at the top of that list. Everyone knows that a bad fall can spell doom and gloom for an older person. A history of falling threatens your ability to live independently more than anything else (statistics show that one in three seniors will suffer a fall each year).
As you age changes in health, strength, coordination, reflexes, and visual acuity all serve to alter the way you react to your environment. Dizziness, light headedness, or any other problems that affect balance are warning signs and should not be ignored. There are many steps that you can take to reduce your risk of falling.
Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Hopefully you are doing these things already, but if you are not, find someone to help you. Knowing when to ask for help may be all it takes to keep you in charge.
Walking is a good exercise. Many walkers find walking a dog both motivating and gratifying. If you walk your dog two or three times a day it becomes a routine. Actually, anything that you do more than once (or even just once) becomes a routine to a dog. This means putting on your walking shoes and heading out the door morning and night.
I am always pleased when I read newspaper articles about walking. This time of the year, it is especially gratifying to read articles that stress safety concerns, especially if you walk after dark. During fall and winter the pleasant after dinner walk becomes rather unsettling.
In case you haven’t noticed, it is dark out there. Visibility is poor. Drivers can’t see you. The street lights are not as bright as they should be, and there are an unbelievable number of people out driving after dark. You probably wonder why they aren’t home having dinner or settling in for the night, I do, but nevertheless they are out there and often driving quite rapidly down quiet residential streets.
Last night, driving home from the gym in the dark, I counted 2 bicyclers, 2 people crossing in the middle of the street, and 8 people walking dogs. Guess what they all had in common? They were all wearing dark clothing. If we didn’t know that the locals were often out there, we might have missed them (or hit them). Age doesn’t have anything to do with it, but many dog walkers are older people. I am afraid for them, even though I admit that I am not always as careful as I should be either. Many of us are guilty of using poor judgment when it comes to our safety when we go out after dark.
Theresa Goffredo (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote an article for the Herald about the importance of making yourself visible. We all know this, but I think we’ve already established that we don’t do it. The only people I have seen using lights, light reflective materials and reflected tapes are joggers. Good for them.
Whether you are doing a one mile circuit for exercise or just going to be out for a few minutes is immaterial. It only takes a second for a pedestrian accident to happen. What can you do to ensure that your walk will be a safe venture for you and your dog? The article in the Herald focused on dog walking, but the information is prudent whether you are walking with your dog, a human friend, or alone. They key is to be visible.
Before you step outside tonight, enjoy a shopping spree at your local sporting good store. Shop for yourself and for your dog. Light colored clothing, flashing lights and strips of reflective tape at the very least. A pet store will have collars with blinking lights or at least one that will reflect light. Be safe, keep your dog on a short leash and take this walking business seriously. Movement, reflections and dancing bright lights will catch the eye of any driver. It just makes good sense.
First of all I want to thank the ladies who responded to my piece on fall prevention, and were interested enough to ask questions. I wish I had all of the answers, but I am going through a period of trial and error myself. I am not a physical or occupational therapist, but I am terribly impressed by the work that they do. I did work as a nurse in a retirement center for many years so I do know that falling is a real concern. Indeed, what does happen if your knees are bad or you fall somewhere where you can’t get to a chair to pull yourself up? What I can do is help you think this through. Hopefully we can get other people to share their own fears, concerns, and solutions.
Older people are prone to falls for all sorts of reasons. The only person who can keep a fall from turning into a catastrophe is you. You absolutely must entertain the idea that a fall could happen to you, BEFORE it happens. I did learn when working in long term care that you have the right to fall. Does that make sense? What it means is that no one else can prevent you from indulging in risky behaviors.
If you plan on aging in place, especially if you live alone, you need to think about what measures to take to ensure your own safety. The best ways to reduce risks is to:
Get down on the floor right now and practice getting up (under supervision). Read books or watch videos if you don’t know where to start. The easiest way (now that you are computer savvy) is to type the words “getting up after a fall” into your search engine. You will find some excellent videos that will walk you through the process. If you aren’t brave enough to try on your own, take a better balance class at your local hospital or senior center. If you have difficulties with balance and walking because of poor muscle strength or a chronic illness, you can ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist for a one-on-one evaluation.
Basically it is up to you to make sure that you can get up or at least summons help. Wear a voice of help pendent or keep your cell phone on your person at all times. Write and tell me what you are doing to make sure that a fall does not end life as you know it.
I like to read. I have been dubbed legally blind since childhood so I have never taken my eyesight for granted. I think we all know that as we grow older, we don’t see as well as we used to. You may be able to get by with reading glasses, brighter lights or by using magnifiers, but don’t take this precious gift for granted. Decreasing vision means that you need to make adjustments. If you have been lucky enough to enjoy perfect vision for most of your life, it may be difficult to admit that you need help.
What lengths are you willing to go to preserve and enhance your eyesight? If you haven’t been to an eye doctor in awhile you may be surprised to learn that science and technology have found unimaginable ways to help you out. But wait, there is more. In addition to monitoring degrees of visual acuity, your eye doctor is able to pinpoint things that might be happening elsewhere in your body.
Shirley S. Wang (Shirley.email@example.com) wrote an interesting article about some of the latest findings in the world of visual care (The Wall Street Journal: Tuesday, August 14, 2012). Diabetes, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, or other impending disasters are often noticed (a clue, so to speak) during routine visual exams. So, if you are thinking that an eye doctor is just someone who takes measurements and prescribes glasses, it is time to give them the credit they deserve. Your eye doctor is indeed a member of your health care team.
What do they mean by regular examinations? Experts suggest that everyone should have a baseline examination by the time they are 40. After that people age 40-54 should be seen every 2-4 years, people 55-65 every 1-3 years and those over 65 every 1-2 years. It makes sense to schedule an eye exam prior to your physical examination. If anything alarming is pinpointed your primary care physician can do a follow-up. Never accept a loss of visual acuity as just another sign of aging. Report any vision changes or injury immediately, but make a point of having regular eye examinations too.
Instead of resigning yourself to the inevitable, think about what you can do to help yourself. When a problem is identified, look for solutions. Regular eye care can serve as a way to reduce visual impairments and improve the quality of your life. It is unfortunate that so many people do not take advantage of eye care solutions. The reasons cited usually have to do with cost, lack of insurance, or simply because people don’t see a need. Your eye sight and your health are important if you want to live independently. It is never too late to listen and learn.