July 5, 2006 > Safe at Home!
Safe at Home!
No, we’re not talking baseball. The topic is “Home Safety for Seniors,” and it’s the focus of an upcoming Health and Wellness seminar sponsored by Washington Hospital on Tuesday, July 11 from 1 to 2 p.m.
“Accidents at home are a serious problem for older adults,” says Washington Hospital occupational therapist Christy Casey, OTR/L, who will conduct the seminar. “According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), falls are the most common cause of serious injuries and the leading cause of injury-related deaths among older adults. Moreover, between one-half to two-thirds of falls among older adults occur in or around the house. That’s why it’s important for seniors to make their homes safe to prevent falls. That way, they can safely age in place and not have to leave the comfortable and familiar surroundings of their own homes.”
Casey notes that while many people do fall while going up or down stairs, most falls occur on level floors. “Sometimes people will trip over a threshold, or slip when they’re moving from carpet to linoleum or wood floors,” she explains. “Other home environmental hazards that can cause falls include throw rugs, electrical cords, furniture that is too low or unstable, slippery floor surfaces and poor lighting. Faulty equipment such as walkers or canes that are too short or wheelchairs that are unlocked can be another risk factor, as can shoes that don’t fit properly or that have slippery soles.”
In addition to home environmental risk factors, there are numerous personal health conditions that can contribute to falling accidents:
- Lower leg weakness or foot problems.
- Problems with balance or walking.
- Diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s or stroke.
- Circulatory problems that cause a rapid drop in blood pressure when changing from a sitting to standing position or vice versa.
- Poor vision.
- Bladder dysfunction.
- Mental changes such as confusion, dementia or depression.
- Postural changes such as curvature of the spine.
- Acute increase in the severity of a condition such as congestive heart failure or irregular heartbeat.
- Fainting episodes.
“Many medications also can have side effects that increase the likelihood of a fall,” Casey adds. “If you’re experiencing any dizziness or other unusual symptoms, ask your doctor to review your current medications to evaluate whether they might be causing side effects or adverse drug interactions.”
Besides reducing the environmental hazards around the home and paying close attention to personal health factors, seniors can employ other strategies for reducing their risk of falling accidents. “Exercising regularly can increase your lower body strength and improve your balance,” Casey says. “A physical or occupational therapist can help you develop an appropriate home exercise program. The therapist also can assist you with equipment needs such as walkers or canes and provide home modification recommendations such as placing ‘grab bars’ in the bathroom, handrails along stairways and night lights in rooms and hallways.
“None of us likes to face the changes that come with aging,” she adds. “We all cling to our sense of pride and independence. But we shouldn’t be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help when we need it. People are often more than happy to help with daily tasks such as grocery shopping, housekeeping, laundry, changing light bulbs or working in the garden. Our friends and loved ones would by far prefer to help us with those tasks than to have us be among those who have to be admitted to a long-term care facility as a result of a fall.”
The “Home Health for Seniors” seminar will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A & B, in the Washington West Building located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. For more information, or to register to attend, please call (800) 963-7070.