By Diane Forrest
Last month a friend of mine went to check on his elderly friend who had been involved in an automobile accident 3 weeks before. He had called my friend from the scene of the accident to get a ride since his vehicle had been totaled. A few weeks after the accident my friend went to see about him, but there was no answer at the door, and his mailbox was stuffed with mail. Becoming concerned, he notified his friend's nephew, and once he arrived, 911 was called. His friend was discovered in the bathroom, where he had been for the past 3 weeks. This man lived alone, had no telephone, had just had an automobile accident, and even though there were no visible signs of injury, the event could have left him unsteady on his feet. A few simple steps could have helped this man and prevented his death.
Most of the home accidents occur with the elderly and children. The home is the site of approximately 20% of all injury death. The top five leading causes of unintentional home injury death are falls, poisoning, fire/burn, choking/suffocation, and drowning; together these causes account for 90% of all unintentional home injury deaths. Yet the majority of unintentional home injuries do not result in death. For every home injury death there are approximately 650 nonfatal injuries. Children under age 5 and adults over age 70 are the highest risk groups for home injury, both fatal and nonfatal according to the Home Safety Council.
Falls continue to be the major reason for injury-related death, injury and hospital admission for older adults.
Follow these tips to prevent slips and falls in your home:
- Keep the floor clear. Reduce clutter and safely tuck telephone and electrical cords out of walkways.
- Keep the floor clean. Clean up grease, water and other liquids immediately. Don't wax floors.
- Use non-skid throw rugs to reduce your chance of slipping on linoleum.
- Install handrails in stairways. Have grab bars in the bathroom (by toilets and in tub/shower.)
- Make sure living areas are well lit. We can all trip and fall in the dark.
- Be aware that climbing and reaching high places will increase your chance of a fall. Use a sturdy step stool with hand rails when these tasks are necessary.
- Follow medication dosages closely. Using medication incorrectly may lead to dizziness, weakness and other side effects. These can all lead to a dangerous fall.
Below are some tips that will help make your home more safe but I would suggest that you go to each room in your home, look around to see if there is any possible health hazard that could be lurking in any corner. It is too late for my friend's friend, but hopes are that his death will serve as a wakeup call to remain alert and always have some form of communication available. Be Safe!
- Have first-aid kit stocked with emergency items.
- Practice a home fire escape plan twice a year so everyone knows at least two exits out of every room and where to meet outside in case of an emergency
- Test your smoke alarms once a month and replace batteries yearly
- Stay in the kitchen when food is cooking on the stove
- Use nightlights to help light hall ways and bathrooms during night-time hours
- Use a sturdy step stool and not a chair when climbing
- Post the National Poison Control Hotline number (800-222-1222) along with other emergency numbers next to every phone