By George Williams
The number-one cause of death due to injury in the home is falling; and falls on stairs are the incidents that most often prove fatal.
Due to declining strength and dexterity, falls are all too common among seniors. As a result, fall prevention is a primary concern for seniors and their caregivers.
Fortunately, there are steps caregivers can take to help reduce the risk of falling, especially around stairwells. Here are a few tips to make stairwells as safe as possible:
● Keep the stairs clear of loose objects -- children's toys, the odd pair of shoes, and other obstacles should never be left on the steps.
● Make sure the stairwell is well lit and has good visibility. This is especially true at the very top and bottom of the stairs.
● If you have small area rugs on the floor, tape them down so they cannot slide or remove them altogether. This is also something you should do around the house in general.
● If items must be carried from floor to floor, don't carry large loads. They make it harder to maneuver, and easier to lose your balance.
● If the stairs in question are outside, make sure to keep them free of loose leaves, snow, and other hazards. You should also periodically check for loose or broken stones and mortar.
● If the stairs are in the basement, paint the bottom one white. It won't clash with your decor and it will give them much better visibility in the dark.
Footwear is also an important part of your fall prevention strategy. The Mayo Clinic states that "high heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. So can walking in your stocking feet." If that applies to you or the elderly person you're caring for, a simple footwear adjustment could help prevent a fall. Additionally, check to see if your foot size has changed when you get new shoes; buy sturdy shoes with non-skid soles; and avoid shoes with extra-thick soles.
There is also an amazing array of online resources on fall prevention that caregivers and elders can take advantage of. Here are two of my favorites:
● Temple University's Fall Prevention Project -- The website doesn’t look like much, but it is full of useful data, from in-home safety checklists (available in multiple languages) to balance tests for older adults on CD-ROM.
● StopFalls.Org -- The Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, headquartered at the University of Southern California Andrus Gerontology Center, produces this website, which contains useful information for service providers, families, and educators alike. While the information is mainly focused on the state of California, there is still a lot there than can benefit any caregiver.
A few simple precautions can make all the difference in the world for both you and those you care for. Stay safe!
George Williams is a veteran journalist, and writer for firstSTREET Online, a leading provider of fall prevention products for seniors and caregivers. George blogs about technology, health and safety for seniors on the firstSTREET Blog.