By Grace DeRose-Wilson, Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan
I know several older adults who live alone whom I help on a regular basis. I often hear from them that they are worried they will fall, and no one will find them for days. This common fear among older adults is not unfounded. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that most fatal and nonfatal injuries that result in hospitalization of adults 65 or older are caused by falling. Preventing falls or reducing the chance of falling is often relatively simple, but can take some planning. Completing a thorough assessment of your home can help reduce the risk of falling.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a checklist to help individuals assess their homes for hazards. The checklist is broken into sections to help structure the assessment so important steps are not overlooked.
The five main areas to focus on in your house are the floors, stairs and steps, kitchen, bathrooms, and, bedrooms. The CDC checklist asks questions about each space and gives solutions for ways to eliminate trip hazards. A few focal points on this checklist are what objects are on the floor and where are they located, where lights and light switches are located, and how objects on high shelves are accessed.
Some points the CDC highlights are obvious, like clearing all books, shoes, and other objects from floors. Other points might not be as easily recognizable as hazards.
Did you know that throw rugs are a trip hazard? Do you have light switches at the top and bottom of your stairs? If not, you may want to get an electrician to install a second light switch, so you don’t have to walk up or down the stairs in the dark. You should also consider putting in a night-light if the path from your bed to your bathroom is dark.
In addition to assessing your home for tripping hazards, you can reduce your chances of tripping in other ways as well. Some preventative measures the CDC recommends are getting regular exercise and getting your vision checked every year. Regular exercise helps improve your balance, makes you stronger, and improves your coordination.
Having a plan in case you fall is also important. The CDC recommends keeping a phone near the floor or wearing an alarm device so you can call for help if you fall and are unable to get back up.
If you or someone you know is at risk of falling, complete a home safety assessment using this checklist. If you would like more information, check out the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Guidelines for Preventing Falls.
Grace DeRose-Wilson is a Screening Integration Coordinator for MiCAFE at Elder Law of Michigan and has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since November 2018. As a Screening Integration Coordinator, Grace helps Michigan seniors navigate the benefits application process, and helps raise awareness of benefits through community outreach events.