Start by slowly walking through your home with an educated eye, looking for the traps to safety. Then, put in place the following simple and easy to do precautions.
• Clear all clutter from pathways, stairs and doorways. Putting items for recycling by the door may be a good reminder to take them out, but they could also become obstacles to trip over. No use saving the environment at the cost of yourself.
Most people have a favorite chair and they collect frequently needed items close to hand. On small side tables, a phone, address book, magnifying glass, a tea or coffee mug, boxes of tissues, loose pill bottles and of course the TV channel changer, are all ready to tumble off and scatter on the floor. On the floor, conveniently ready to trap you, are books, newspapers and knitting or hobby items. These are a fall waiting to happen.
• Collect the small items and store them in a decorative open box. Put papers, books and hobby items into a container placed well away from feet.
• Tape down electrical and telephone cords. Remove scatter rugs or tape down the sides and corners with double-sided tape.
• In the kitchen use a cordless kettle.
• Keep counters free of loose items so there is space for setting down plates and pots.
• Wipe up spills on the floor and counters immediately. People often use the counter to steady themselves and if their hand slips in a spill they may tumble to the floor.
• Check pathways from the bedroom to the bathroom. Keep them clear. It is a good idea to install a night light for that middle of the night dash.
• In the bathroom, tidy away electrical cords or loose hanging items.
• Grab bars are a must for the bath and shower areas.
• Use only non slip mats. And again wipe up spills immediately.
• There is absolutely no reason for hot water heaters to be calibrated higher then 125% (51.66 metric) although most are. Lowering the temperature protects delicate elderly skin from scalds. If you do not have control over the hot water heater temperature install scald proof mixing valves. Don’t worry about the kitchen dishes getting clean. Detergents do that job and if necessary use the sani-wash on the dishwasher.
• Med-mix-ups are more complicated. Often people don’t tell their doctor all the over-the-counter medicines they use for small physical inconveniences. Those over the counter medicines have a lot of chemicals, salts and sugars in them which can interfere with your prescription medicines. If your doctor knows what over-the-counter medicines you are taking, she or he can tell you healthy alternatives. Use the same pharmacy always, that way they can check the record of other prescriptions you are taking and warn of incompatibilities. Ask them outright if there is any conflict. If a lot of medicines are being taken, ask for bubble packs or buy a pill organizer. Medicine schedules are easier to follow with this type of packaging.
I always tell my clients that “a good precaution is never wasted” and these small precautions contribute mightily to your safety.
Excerpt from a larger article on Falls, Scalds and Med-Mix-ups © 2004. Mary Ellen Tomlinson, Director. Senior Care Options Inc. www.seniorcareoptions.ca.