When we consider falls, about 60% of falls happen at home. We tend to spend the majority of our time in our home environment, and since it is familiar to us, we usually do not consider it hazardous. Meaning, we tend to let down our "safety guard" and may not take into consideration our safety.
As a physical therapist that provides care to patients and clients in the home environment, there are many changes I commonly suggest to help improve safety within the home to help lower risk of falls and ensure safety.
Here are 5 key areas to consider when 'fall proofing' your home:
1. Common Living Areas
Simple changes to your main living areas can dramatically reduce your risk for a fall in your home. Take a look at the layout of your furniture. Does it give you accessible walkways, or do you find yourself walking around pieces to get where you are going? Do you have items that you can trip over that are in your way? Throw rugs can cause tripping easily if you catch your toe on them. Removing or securing loose rugs or carpeting edges down with carpet tape can significantly reduce your risk of tripping over these items. Secure power cords against the baseboard, and avoid having them run along the floor in your walking path, also consider securing with tape.
If you wear oxygen, the tubing connecting to the oxygen tank can be hazardous. Consider the location of your oxygen concentrator tank and not having too much excess oxygen tubing to reduce the number of cords, so you are only using the necessary amount of oxygen tubing. If you are using oxygen tubing and you have visual deficits consider asking your oxygen supplier for 'colored' tubing (opposed to 'clear' tubing) to improve the contrast for seeing the location of the oxygen tubing at all times. Also, consider wearing a portable oxygen tank since the oxygen tubing length is considerably less and more manageable when walking.
Another consideration is regarding taking care of pets (especially cats and dogs), knowing where your pet is whenever you are standing or walking is very important. Depending on where you feed your pet, considering placing your pet's water and food bowls at a modified higher height to make it easier on your balance.
Avoid leaving objects on the stairs at all costs! Make sure your stairs have proper lighting, with light switches at the top and bottom of the staircase. If you don’t have light switches at both ends of the stairs, an electrician can easily install them to assist you.
A couple of important questions to ask yourself are: When was the last time the screws on your railing were tightened? Would it better serve you to add a second railing on the opposite side of the staircase?
Having the screws fastened and considering having two hand railings may be beneficial for ease of stair walking. Make sure you do not leave items on the stairs (books, papers, clothes, shoes, etc.), having those items on the steps can be a tipping hazard. If you have carpeted stairs, make sure the carpeting is securely tacked down and if you have wooden or tile stairs, placing non-slip strips on each step can help with lowering your risk of slipping.
High cabinets can create problems. Reaching high overhead challenges your balance and forces you to stand on chairs that aren’t sturdy. Moving items that are placed lofty heights to lower shelves can immediately reduce your fall risk. Keep things that you often use within easy reach. If you are unable to reach items on high shelves, do not stand on a chair or table, preferably use a "reacher or grabber" instead or ask someone for help. If you can use a step stool, make sure the step stool is steady and has a handrail on top. Have someone stand next to you for safety.
Place a lamp within reach while lying in bed so you can turn it on before you get out of bed. If the path from your bed to the bathroom is dark, have a night light that lights up when it’s dim in the house. Using a motion sensor light requires you to be up already and walking before it activates, allowing you to lose your balance in the dark. You can also consider keeping a flashlight at your bedside in case there is a loss of power, and you need to get up. Place a telephone on your nightstand should be considered and if you have an emergency alert safety pendant (necklace or bracelet), keep it within reach at all times.
Water and slick surfaces can be a dangerous combination. Non-slip strips and non-slip tub mat on all surfaces that may get wet will give you extra stability. A shower chair and shower wand will reduce the length of time standing in the shower. Lastly, installing grab bars is one of the most effective ways to ensure safety when getting into and out of the bath or shower. Consider having grab bars place near your toilet can provide stability with using the bathroom. Many carpenters can install them quickly inside and outside of your showering area, and near your toilet.
Everyone has a different living environment, so to better serve your particular situation consider having a physical therapist assess your home to ensure it is set up correctly for your daily mobility needs.
Physical therapy will be an excellent solution for your current situation. If you live in the Greater Milwaukee area and would like to learn more about how physical therapy or a trained physical therapist can help you, please reach out to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or if you would like to arrange a FREE phone call with a physical therapist CLICK HERE.
Talk more soon!!
P.S. If you’re experiencing difficulty in your walking and/or balance which restricts your ability to get around your home without feeling worried, please download the walking and balance tips report which includes actionable tips I give to my patients at Prestige Therapy and Wellness, LLC.
Click here to get your free copy: https://prestigetherapywellness.lpages.co/walking-balance-freebie/