Patient Safety Week: Make Your Home Safer

Patient safety week is the 12th-18th and serves as a great opportunity to educate on fall prevention. Falls are the primary cause of injury-related deaths in the older population, and many of these deaths occur after months of medical care and treatment.  Everyday household items may pose as fall hazards, especially for the elderly. Learn to recognize these items and follow our tips to help you prevent falls in your home.

Floors

  • Secure rugs and loose carpeting or remove throw rugs. Do not use floral / patterned rugs.
  • Avoid wax or use non-skid wax.
  • Remove clutter from stairs and walkways.

Lighting

  • Provide adequate in all walkways.
  • Use lamp shades or frosted bulbs to reduce glare.
  • Provide a flashlight if walkway is not well lit.
  • Have a qualified person add additional light fixtures. Use the correct bulbs for the light source.
  • Open curtains or blinds (unless this causes too much glare).

 Kitchen

  • Commonly used items should be located between shoulder and knee level.
  • Wipe up spills as soon as they occur.

 Bathroom

  • Have grab bars installed next to the toilet, and tub or shower.
  • Secure loose towel racks, sink tops, and toilet seats.
  • Use a rubber mat or other non-skid surface in tub or shower.
  • Use a shower chair and raised toilet seat, if needed.
  • Put medicine cabinet items within easy reach and ensure they are well marked.
  • Install a phone in the bathroom (not near a water source).

Bedroom

  • Ensure there is space between the bed and wall.
  • Avoid elevated / low beds and soft mattresses.
  • Clear a path from the bed to the bathroom. Use hand rails, if needed.
  • Place commonly used items in the closet between shoulder and knee level.
  • A flashlight should be located near the bed.
  • Position phones at heights accessible from floor level.
  • Ensure lamps and switches are located near the bed to help see at night.

Stairways

  • Mark bottom step to be distinguished from the floor.
  • Steps to have non-skid surfaces.
  • Make sure railings are secure and visible.
  • Stairs should have risers.
  • Clear objects from stairs.
  • Consider installing light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs.
  • Consider refinishing or replacing worn treads or carpet.
  • Clearly mark any steps that are narrow or have risers that are higher or lower than the others.

Furniture

  • Ensure feet are flat when sitting on the bed, toilet, or chair.
  • Chairs should have armrests, backs, and have ease-to-rise capability.

 Walkways

  • Repair uneven or cracked walkways.
  • Remove clutter and furniture from walkways.
  • Remove snow and ice, or use salt on icy walkways.

 Shoes

  • Wear shoes that give good support.
  • Avoid wearing slippers.

Medicines

  • Have your healthcare provider review your medicines.
  • Make sure that all containers are clearly marked with the contents, doctor’s instructions, expiration date, and patient’s name.

Pets

  • Hold on to a sturdy object when placing pet food in a bowl on the floor or when bending over to pet the animal.
  • Take special care when walking a dog.
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8 Tips for Preventing Falls

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Falls are a normal part of the aging process, and most falls can be prevented. However, a third of people age 65 and older will fall each year. Falling is the leading cause of injuries among seniors and can threaten a person’s independence and active lifestyle.

Tips for preventing falls:

  1. Patients can improve balance and strength with regular exercise. Exercises such as Yoga or Tai Chi help improve balance.
  2. Decrease tripping hazards—keep cords, shoes, and boxes out of walkways. Avoid throw rugs or use nonskid mats.
  3. Review and identify medications that may cause dizziness or drowsiness in patients.
  4. Suggest grab bars in the tub or shower and toilet. Installing railings on both sides of stairs may be helpful.
  5. Patients should get their eyes checked at least once a year.
  6. Suggest they wait a few minutes after sitting or standing to avoid becoming lightheaded or lose their balance.
  7. Patients can use a walker or cane if they feel unsteady.
  8. Recommend increased lighting throughout their house (plug in nightlights can be helpful in hallways or bathrooms).

People who have experienced falls may develop a fear of falling. Because of the fear of falling they may start limiting their activity, which leads to the worsening of muscle weakness and can increase chances for falling. Encourage an active lifestyle for patients who are able, but for those who are more prone to falls, many falls can be prevented by following these simple tips.

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