With more and more older Australians opting to age in their own homes falls become a greater risk.
The majority of these falls occur in and around the home. Most falls occur in the bedroom, garden and living or family areas as a result of tripping or slipping due to lighting and structural hazards. While health and lifestyle issues are important to reduce your risk of falling, it is also important to minimise any risk factors in your everyday surroundings. Vicki Saun, Envigor Community Care Business Partner for Maroochydore, shares some handy tips on how to ensure you and your home are fall-safe.
More than 60 per cent of falls happen in the bedroom. The main hazards are getting in and out of bed, insufficient lighting and tripping over cords, bedspreads, pets or clutter on the floor.
Having a bed that is the right height for you with a firm mattress will make getting in and out of bed safer. When getting out of bed, first roll on to your side, then sit up before you stand up. If you feel dizzy after sitting up, wiggle your toes for a few minutes and wait for any dizziness to settle completely before standing.
Bathroom and toilet
Non-slip floorings are important and non-slip products in the shower or bath, such as paints or self-adhesive non-slip strips, can make these areas less slippery. If you feel you need additional support, grab rails in the bath or shower and beside the toilet are a good idea.
When bathing or showering, have all your toiletries within easy reach so you do not need to stretch or bend to use them. Try to keep floors dry and mop up any wet puddles as soon as possible.
Arrange your kitchen so the items you use most frequently are easy to reach. Place them between hip and eye level.
Make sure counters and tables are at the right height for your size and are sturdy enough to support your weight if you lean on them—don’t use a collapsible table such as a card table.
Use a tray-mobile or trolley to transport kitchen items safely. Clean up spills immediately using a long-handled mop and remove any grease residue to prevent slips and falls.
If you find it necessary to reach high places, use a broad-based, sturdy and secure ladder with handrails.
Lounge room or living room
Use a cordless phone that you take with you so you don’t need to rush to answer the phone and there are fewer wires to worry about.
Check for loose rugs or mats and remove any that have curled edges. Secure others using non-slip underlay.
Check that clutter on the floor doesn’t become a risk. This includes items such as magazines, newspapers, craftwork, extension cords and knitting on the floor near your lounge chair.
Use chairs that are not too low and have solid armrests—they are easier to get in and out of.
Floors, walkways and stairs
Have floor surfaces that are less slippery, such as carpet or slip-resistant tiles. Check floor coverings, particularly mats, to ensure they are in good condition and don’t have holes, curled up edges or frayed sections that you could trip on.
Avoid having electrical extension cords running across floors by having an electrician install additional power points. If you are unable to install additional power points, then move the cord to run along the walls, not across the floor. The cords can be secured with self-adhesive cord clips that attach to the base of the wall.
Make sure your stairways are well lit, not slippery and that you have safe and adequate handrails. If you have trouble seeing the edges of your stairs, clearly mark them with white or yellow paint or adhesive non-slip stair edging.
Outside the home
Make sure outside areas are safe, well-lit and have properly maintained surfaces—especially outdoor tiles and paths, which can become slippery when wet.
Check for broken pavers and ask for help to have any raised pavers re-laid. Keep paths free of moss and leaves, and remove any obstacles such as gardening tools, hoses and small pots.
Outside steps and stairs may need non-slip edging. Leaf litter should also be removed.
Many bad falls result from the use of ladders. Make sure you use a safe ladder and ask someone for assistance. If help is not available, consider postponing the task until someone can help.
Many falls result from trying to do jobs that are too hard to reach. If you have odd jobs that need doing, make sure you have the right equipment or consider asking someone to either do it for you or help you with it. Don’t risk your health and independence by doing it alone.
Related content: Home and garden
Personal alarms and walking aids
If you are concerned that you may fall, you can buy a personal alarm to be worn around your neck or carried in a pocket. Some alarms are activated if the wearer falls. Others require the alarm to be pressed for assistance.
Walking aids can help to increase your steadiness and improve your confidence to be more mobile, however, they need to suit your needs and be maintained.
This article is adapted from the Queensland Stay on Your Feet® Checklist.