HELP LINE: There are tips and tricks to avoid falls

I’M STILL IN shock.

I’ve heard from several different people in several different places who are actually planning ahead.

Specifically, they plan to “age in place” (as opposed, I guess, to growing younger in place, which almost never happens).

Actually, that’s just jargon for, “I want to stay right where I am for a good, long time, so how do I plan ahead to do that?”

And even more specifically, these folks were inquiring about falls … well … OK, fall prevention — which is just scary-smart because falls will put more of us in the hospitals, in nursing homes and in morgues than all the major diseases put together.

Yeah, really.

So, here are the usual suspects that cause falls and what to do about them:

• Keep objects off the floor, meaning don’t scatter stuff in your major routes where you might space out and go down;

• Remove throw rugs or tape them down;

• Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall or under the furniture out of your traffic lanes.

The kitchen is a popular place to fall a— -over-teacup, so consider:

• Put the stuff you use the most within easy reach, generally about waist level;

• If you have to stand on something to get something, use a step stool. Chairs can be lethal.

If you thought the kitchen was fun, try the bathroom(s):

• Put non-slip rubber mats, self-stick strips or something on the floor of the tub or shower (no, they do not have to depict rubber duckies, but to each their own) and …

• … consider installing grab-bars for support getting in or out of the tub or shower, and up from the toilet. Towel racks are lousy substitutes. If you’re actually going to install these grab bars, get somebody who knows what they’re doing to do the installation, because grab-bars that come out of the wall just invite a 9-1-1 call.

In the bedroom:

• Use bright light bulbs. Seeing where you’re going helps, especially in the middle of the night, and place lamps close to the bed;

• Night-lights are pretty darned handy for seeing a path in the dark. No electrical outlet? Battery-operated night lights work just fine.

Inside and outside stairs and steps:

• If a step is loose or uneven, it’s out to get you;

• If there’s carpet, make sure that it’s firmly attached, or remove it and substitute non-slip rubber treads;

• Loose or broken handrails? They don’t help. Consider installing handrails on both sides of the stairs;

• Bright, overhead lighting at the top and the bottom of the stairs, with light switches at both places, will help a lot.

Just a thought: Shoes/slippers that fit well, have a firm heel and textured soles will help to keep you upright, as opposed to those 30-year-old pull-ons that are as smooth as glass.

Here’s a trick I learned a long time ago: Many of us don’t see the threats in our homes because we live there every day. Get somebody else to come over and have a look around, and assure them that you won’t be offended. What they see is often very different than what we see.

Now, stop: Many of you are thinking that these ideas are all about old people, so if I’m not old, I probably don’t need to care, because I have a big, red S on my chest, anyway.

Oh, yeah? Read this list again and tell me where it says anything about old; then, tell me which ones wouldn’t be a good idea for anyone. Right.

You might have encountered the phrase “universal design.” Try Googling it and watch what comes up.

However, this is an acceptable job of covering the basics, so one last thought:

If you take medications (maybe in combination, maybe with alcohol, whatever) that make you unsteady, you are going to be unsteady, so just think about that.

I absolutely detest that “I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up” commercial.

Maybe part of why I detest it is because I’ve seen it too often in real life.

________

Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing harvemb@dshs.wa.gov.

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