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Nina Creech: It’s National Falls Prevention Month — safety more important than ever during a pandemic

September is National Falls Prevention Month and now is a great time to focus on strategies that can help reducing these dangerous — and potentially fatal — accidents.

Falls are expensive to treat, and often the pain and injury they cause can have negative effects on a person’s quality of life and drastically reduce an older adult’s independence.

In fact, the National Council on Aging cites falls as the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries alike for older Americans, with an older adult treated for one in the emergency room every 11 seconds. With the COVID-19 pandemic now posing additional threats to our health – and especially the health of older citizens – the need to reduce this problem is magnified more than ever.

Nina Creech

At People Working Cooperatively’s Whole Home Innovation Center, we know that falls do not have to be a normal occurrence of aging. Through our education and outreach efforts, we facilitate prevention techniques and home modifications trainings and programs for those most at risk of falls, as well as their families and caregivers. In addition, we are the only organization in the region providing in-home fall risk assessments where a Certified Aging in Place Specialist will tour a home and provide a comprehensive report explaining potentially hazardous areas and solutions to mitigate the problem.

What is the best way to prevent a fall? Plan ahead. Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of dangerous falls in your home, straight from the experts at Whole Home:

• Improving lighting in the home is one of the easiest modifications to make. Brightening high-traffic areas like stairs and entryways with LED bulbs increases visibility. Likewise, installing nightlights in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways is an effective way to create an illuminated walking path should you need to get up and move around during the night.

• Railings provide additional balance for adults with mobility issues; support railings in bedrooms, showers and adjacent to toilets can assist in repositioning, sitting up and down and providing safe entry and exit. You should also consider adding railings to outdoor entry points as well because inclement weather can pose an additional threat to those already suffering from balance issues. Adding a shower bench, slipmat, secure bathmats and wearing house shoes with traction are also good ways to prevent wet surfaces throughout the home from causing injury.

• Re-positioning furniture in the home — especially in kitchens — is another simple yet effective means to reduce fall potential. Create wider walkways by moving larger objects to allow for walkers and wheelchairs to more easily pass through, and make sure appliances, islands, tables and countertops do not impede walking paths. This is also why it’s important to clear out any clutter that can cause slips, loss of balance, and other accidents leading to injury. Fixing broken furniture and steps and removing anything like decorative rugs that can cause injury should also be addressed.

Following these simple strategies can go a long way toward keeping your home healthy and safe not just for your immediate family, but also for friends and other family members with mobility issues. To learn more about the intersection of home and health, visit wholehome.org.

Nina Creech is Senior VP of Operations at the Whole Home Innovation Center, People Working Cooperatively.

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