- Written by Scott A. Trudeau, PhD, OTR/L
- Published: 08 September 2017
More than 75% of falls take place inside or in close proximity to the home, but your home doesn’t have to be an obstacle course of potential falls. Some simple and quick changes will easily help reduce your risk of falling. Review the steps below to get started today.
- Add a non-slip rubber mat to the shower or tub. The traction of the mat or rubber self-stick strips will help keep you from slipping when stepping on the wet surfaces.
- Install grab bars by the toilet and tub. The hard surfaces of the bathroom can make falling even more dangerous. Having properly installed grab bars around the toilet and tub provide needed support and balance. Remember, towel racks aren’t grab bars, but grab bars can be towel racks. Grab bars should be installed by a professional to make sure they are at the correct levels and properly anchored to the walls. The National Association of Home Builders has Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists who work in many communities. If you cannot find a certified professional, then check with your local Area Agency on Aging for a list of handymen who can help with installation.
- Consider a shower chair and a hand-held shower head. These can help you avoid reaching or straining during your shower.
Find an occupational therapist for advice
Occupational therapists help you continue doing the things you want and need to do every day. Occupational therapists ask, “What matters to you?” not “What’s the matter with you?” When it comes to falls, they can assess your home environment to identify hazards and suggest ways to improve the fit between your home and your activities to keep you safer.
When purchasing equipment for your home, like grab bars, ramps, etc., it’s important to keep in mind that not every toilet, doorway, etc. is made equal. It’s not always as simple as going to your local hardware store or pharmacy and asking a clerk for assistance—sometimes you need an expert, and that’s where an occupational therapist can help.
When assessing your home, remember to look for these three things:
- Good lighting
- Easy access to the things you use the most
Also, keep in mind that you always want three points of contact no matter what you are doing. If you are walking up steps or maneuvering in and out of your shower, for example, you want to have two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand in contact with something sturdy.
If you do not own your home, talk with your landlord about making these changes. They will often work with you to get accommodations in place. Don’t assume just because you are renting that you can’t make the necessary changes you need to stay falls free.
We all have the tendency to put things off, especially when we are thinking about preventing a problem that hasn’t happened yet. This can be a problem, so I challenge you to make at least one change right now that will help prevent a fall in your home.
September 22, 2017, is National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. For three weeks in September, we will be running this article from the National Council on Aging (copyright 2016) in several installments. Learn more.
LifePath offers a free falls prevention workshop, called, “A Matter of Balance,” through the Healthy Living Program. Learn more.