Practice safety-at-home – avoid injury

Safety-at-home is a high priority whether you plan to retire in your old home or are considering building a new one. Safety-at-home is an important consideration because thousands of people die or are severely injured in accidents at home. Most of these accidents involve falls but some are related to other hazards such as outside security threats and exposure over time to household chemicals.

Household chemicals especially pesticides and herbicides pose a serious threat within the home including our front and back yards. Most pesticides and herbicides are easily absorbed through the skin and lungs.

Avoiding the serious illnesses that can be caused by pesticides and herbicides will take total elimination of those chemicals or a strict adherence to precautions of storage and use. Labels on these products typically warn to immediately wash any spills off your skin with copious amounts of water and soap.

Falls are the biggest threat to our safety-at-home. Every year thousands of people die or are severely injured in falls around their home. Falls lead to hip fractures and other serious injuries, and are the leading cause of death due to injury. Many times falls result in disability and often makes it impossible for a person to continue to live independently.

Elders suffering from osteoporosis are the most at risk. In fact fractures can occur with no more cause than body movement. Osteoporosis is responsible for about 1.2 million fractures a year. It has been estimated that as many as twenty percent of hip fractures in the elderly are fatal and that over 50 percent of survivors never leave the nursing home. Exercise, especially weight bearing, and diet are important to protect your bones.

Most seniors will experience problems with their eyesight, sense of balance, mobility, bone structure and reflexes. Medical conditions such as stroke, diabetes and Parkinson's disease also increase the risk. But there is much you can do to provide safety-at-home and protect against falls.

A regular home safety inspection by a certified professional should be used to eliminate hazardous conditions and mitigate risk. Look for hazards, such as rough floor surfaces, clutter, throw rugs, and poor lighting. Make simple home modifications, such as grab bars in the bathroom, a second handrail on stairs, and non-slip paint on outdoor steps.

Our ability to navigate on stairs is compromised by failing eyesight, which is made worse by bifocal glasses. Also loose fitting shoes or slippers are fine for padding around the house but should be avoided when using stairs. Loose or torn carpeting is bad anywhere but can be very hazardous on stairs. It should be replaced or repaired. The addition of lighting on steps is also a good preventative measure.

Slippery area rugs should be avoided because they can cause serious falls. They are especially hazardous on slick floors in a kitchen or bathroom. Use area rugs with a non-skid backing or apply a two sided carpet tape to secure them to the floor. And always avoid area rugs on the landings of stairwells.

Many falls occur at nightly trips to the bathroom. The route to the bath room should be clear of low profile furniture and unsecured wiring. The liberal use of well-placed night lights would also help prevent falls.

Exercise is also a way to prevent falls. Since our coordination and sense of balance diminishes with age, aerobic exercise such as walking enables us to maintain and even improve our coordination and reaction time. Add strengthening and balancing exercises to improve muscle tone, balance and flexibility.

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