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Simple Steps to Fall-Free Homes

Domestic tips can keep elderly or disabled safe

SATURDAY, Feb. 26, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Sudden falls can mean long-term illness and disability for older people at risk for fracture, but an expert environmental psychologist offers up a number of simple, affordable ways to make every home slip-safe.

"Our studies consistently illustrate that with several simple, relatively inexpensive modifications such as reorganizing the kitchen cabinets or installing anti-skid strips on the stair tread, people can create safe and more comfortable living environments," said Richard Olsen of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).

Olsen directs NJIT's Center for Architecture and Building Science Research. In a prepared statement, he listed a few ways to help make every room slip-proof:

  • Double-rail those stairs. Having railings on both sides of a staircase provides better support when going up and down stairs, and also ensures that people will be able to use their dominant hand to grasp a railing.
  • Grab it. Install grab bars in and around bathtubs and showers.
  • Take a seat. A tub seat enables a person to get in and out of the tub more easily. A shower seat guards against potential loss of balance.
  • Use your (shower) head. A handheld shower head allows people to sit in the tub or shower and wash themselves, or makes it easier for a caregiver to wash them.
  • Make toilets less troubling. Install raised toilet seats and grab bars at toilets to make sitting and getting up easier.
  • Let there be light. Make sure stairs are always well-lit from top to bottom, and ensure that there are light switches at all room entries so that you don't have to walk through a dark room to turn on the lights.
  • Get skid-proof. Place anti-skid strips on stair treads. These strips, available at hardware or home improvement stores, can prevent slips and falls and help highlight the edge of the stair tread.
  • Keep cupboards within reach. Reorganize kitchen cabinets so that frequently used items are within easy reach. This will help prevent people from losing their balance.
  • Ease room entry. This may mean eliminating raised thresholds between rooms, which can pose a tripping hazard.
  • Ramp up for safety. For wheelchair access, at exterior doors install mini ramps to make it easier for wheelchairs to get up and over thresholds and through the door.
  • Get closets closer. Lower both the closet pole and closet shelves. This makes it easier for the old or disabled to reach clothing.
  • Level out your laundry. Carrying laundry up and downstairs is hazardous, so keep the washer and dryer on the same floor of your home.
  • Keep walkways wide open. Get rid of slippery throw rugs and clean up clutter.

More information

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers a home safety checklist for seniors.

SOURCE: New Jersey Institute of Technology, news release, Feb. 2, 2005
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