June is National Safety Month. Did you know that about 8.9 million visits to the ER are due to falls? Anyone can fall at any age – from toddlers taking their first steps to older adults who are unsteady on their feet. Childhood falls account for more than 2 million ER visits. And, unfortunately as we age, our risk of falling increases. More than one third of all seniors experience a fall, and up to 30% of these falls result in moderate to severe injuries – sometimes even death.
Falls can occur for many reasons; and many of them can be prevented. The most common cause of falls, especially in the elderly, is from slipping, tripping or stumbling. But you can reduce the occurrence of falls in your home by taking certain precautions.
Here are some fall prevention tips to help keep your family safe:
- Arrange furniture so you have open areas for walking.
- Place padding on the sharp edges or corners of furniture, counters or bathroom fixtures.
- Remove toys, clothes, shoes and other tripping hazards from stairs and walkways.
- Install securely mounted banisters or railings on both sides of all staircases from the top to the bottom. And use them.
- Repair loose carpeting on stairs immediately.
- Keep electrical and phone cords away from walkways.
- Install safety gates at the top and bottom of all stairs to prevent small children from falling.
- Remove small throw rugs; or tape rugs down; or use nonslip mats under rugs to keep them from slipping.
- Make sure your home has adequate lighting – both inside and out. Install nightlights to light up bedrooms, hallways and bathrooms.
- Clean up all spills immediately.
- Keep cabinet doors and drawers closed.
- Apply nonskid strips to the bottoms of bathtubs and showers. Also install grab bars in showers and bathtubs. For elderly individuals, consider using a shower seat.
- Never stand on chairs, tables or anything else with wheels.
- Always use a ladder or step-stool when climbing. Place the ladder on a solid, firm surface. Keep three points of contact when using ladders (such as two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand). Grip the rungs, not the siderails. Keep your body centered on the ladder – don’t lean over or overreach. Reposition the ladder if you need to reach an area. Don’t use a ladder in windy or bad weather.
- Keep sidewalks clean of debris and snow. Adjust gutters so water doesn’t drain onto sidewalks.
- Repair any damages to sidewalks or steps immediately.
- Cover the ground under and around play equipment with soft materials like rubber mulch or hardwood chips. This surface should be 9 to 10 inches deep and extend out at least six feet from all sides of the play equipment.
- Wear sturdy shoes with good support and slip-resistant soles.
- Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your home. A good idea is to keep multiple kits handy in the kitchen, bathrooms, basement, and garage.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to prevent many falls from occurring and keep yourself, your family and your houseguests safe and injury-free.
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