Monday, July 1, 2013

Guest Post: 4 Steps to Fall Proof Your House, by Paula Spencer Scott

It is a never-ending battle to keep Robert upright.  Between seizures striking unexpectedly when he is walking to him trying to wash his hands, grab a towel and hang on to something (which resembles a game of Twister) to simply tripping over his own feet, we can use all the help we can get to fall proof our house.  

I am delighted to share these great tips from Paula Spencer Scott, Senior Editor at  

Now excuse me while I go rearrange some furniture . . .

4 Steps to Fall Proof Your House

by Paula Spencer Scott, senior editor at

Despite being incredibly common, falls tend to catch family caregivers by surprise. They're often so focused on the health problem at hand -- dementia, Parkinson's, or another chronic illness or frailty -- that they miss dangerous conditions around the house that can lead to a fall. Yet accidental falls kill thousands every year (they're the leading cause of injury death in those over age 65), and in 2010 they caused 2.3 million emergency room visits for injuries that often brought an end to someone's ability to live independently.

Here are 4 ways to help reduce the risk of falls for your loved one.

1. Rearrange the furniture.

Your goal is to have clear pathways throughout the house. Sometimes the problem is the big-picture stuff that you and your loved one have grown so used to that you barely see it any more -- the furniture. Make sure it's not positioned in such a way that it requires your loved one to twist or maneuver the body to get around it.  

Seating should be high enough off the ground that your loved one can get up and down easily. Falls often happen while someone is trying to sit down or stand up. 

2. Clear the clutter.

Be aware of any tripping hazards along the floors. Often overlooked "trip wires" include electrical cords or computer cords, extension cords, floor lamps, and pet toys. Keep large baskets handy to corral newspapers and mail so it doesn't snowdrift along the floor. Never use stairs to house decorations or even items intended to be carried up or down.

Use double-sided tape to secure throw rugs, provided the security of the hold is checked often. Ideally, get rid of throw rugs altogether. A consistent, level surface is ideal, either wall-to-wall carpeting or wood floors without scatter rugs. (And if your loved one is resistant to removing clutter, remember to start small, tackling the easiest projects first.)

3. Make grabs secure.

People who are unsteady on their feet often grab for the nearest upright thing to help them catch their balance. Unfortunately, the nearest thing -- a towel rack, a toilet-paper holder, curtains -- often gives way and contributes to a fall.

In the bathroom, install grab bars next to the toilet and inside the shower/bath. Add rails along stairways. You might even consider removing long draperies or tablecloths if they're in places where you notice your loved one clutching them for added support.

4. Light up the world.

Good lighting helps your loved one find his or her way and feel secure. Ironically, fear of falling is one of the risk factors for actually having falls! 

Periodically check that all lightbulbs are still working, especially if your loved one doesn't live with you. Consider lighting the path to the bathroom at night, either with sensor night-lights that illuminate as someone passes, or with a string of Christmas-type lights secured to the base of the wall.

Paula Spencer Scott is senior editor at, the leading online destination for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. Paula is a 2011 MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow and writes extensively about health and caregiving. 

No comments: