How Safe Is Your House?
Here is some unhappy but incontrovertible news.
Reputable and reliable Insurance actuaries, as well as medical researchers have established that 70% of Slip and Fall events happen within, or just outside of our homes. Whether you live in a ground floor studio apartment or a multi-storied McMansion these statistics don’t change. And one out of every three such incidents results in a serious injury – often a major fracture requiring either the emergency room or hospitalization with surgery. I must add that if you’re over 70 years of age, you are particularly among the most vulnerable of the Slip and Fall prone population.
The real question is whether each of us as intelligent, responsible, individuals can avoid being part of these statistics? The answer for my patients and other individuals is a resounding YES – and this is why I wrote The Slip and Fall Prevention Handbook, to help accomplish just that. It addresses the current issues that can be handled to ameliorate your home where falls are most likely to occur.
What is Home Safety?
When I talk about home safety, I’m really talking about how you as homeowner protect yourself from Slip and Fall hazards. As we age, our senses of sight, touch, hearing and smell tend to decline. Our physical abilities are reduced, making it more difficult to stretch, lift and bend. Our judgment and reaction time also slow. Simple home precautions and adjustments can help ensure a safe, Slip and Fall Proof home.
Creating a Slip and Fall-Proof Home
Since the publication of my book, a second thought occurred to me that I think may be at least as helpful. The Slip and Fall Prevention Handbook addresses your home and you as they currently exist, but suppose the hazards could be addressed before they exist. That is to say the situation could be PRE-addressed. Or instead of a need to correct or alter the problem as it exists, suppose we anticipated possible trouble. So before you physically move into one of your present rooms or new quarters, you could Slip and Fall proof them.
Here is one way it might be conveniently done: by a cold and beady eyed assessment of the features present (or absent) in the residence under consideration. Say you start with a safety test score or evaluation that could be assigned to the quarters, as if it were 100 % safe. Then knowing features that could be considered part of that safety, you went through the quarters deducting from that perfect score as you encountered each potential hazard.
Let us say that the perfect score would be 100 points. Each absent or non-functioning safety element would count as ‘2 minus points’ – an overall excellent score would be 90 – 100, a very good 89 – 80, a fair 79 – 70, and anything under 70, unacceptable. Now, if desired you don’t have to live with a less that desirable score – you could always raise the score by fixing or supplying what was absent or non-functional if desired. (Or perhaps have the residence sponsor or home assessment provider do so.) But that would be your choice after weighing or testing the quarters.
Your Home’s Safety Score
To give an example of what I have in mind, suppose there were no grab bars (wall attached bars that permit assistance rising or steadying) in the shower and bathtub. The safety score would automatically go from 100 to 98. And if in addition none existed at the sides of the toilet, the score would go to 96. Please note that in my opinion these bars are among the most helpful and fall preventive of features.
So here is one list of home safety features, tools and devices that the perfect home would have present and functional. I’m sure you will be able to add to the list, but we can start with the common or to be expected.
Test Your Home Safety
Below is a list and brief description of what may be termed safety features. Print it out and take a walk around your home. Read each statement below and answer yes and or no. Start with 100 points and remove 2 points for each no – good luck!
- Adequate lighting – 75 watt or higher (most rooms)
- Stairway inside home is safe, steps easy to navigate.
- There are no throw rugs
- All stairs have handrails(at least one)
- Rooms are free of clutter – neatness counts
- Hallway, stairs, and doorway are obstacle free
- Electrical cords are safe and not in walkways
- Floors if not carpet, not slippery (i.e. Tile or Marble)
- Area rugs are safe (two-sided tape)
- Bathroom has grab bars(Shower + Bath)
- Non-slip bathroom mats
- Raised toilet seats or taller toilets
- Seat in Shower
- Table next to bed for phone or emergency device
- Flashlight or nightlights in bedroom and hallways
- Safe shoes and slippers – non-skid and flat
So How Did You Score?
90 – 100 (Excellent)
80 – 90 (Very Good)
70 – 80 (Good)
What is the phrase we hear over and over? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Well nowhere is it more true that when evaluating your domicile safety. And as you can see, easy to do!
Guest Post by Dr. M. E. Hecht
M.E. Hecht, M.D., is an Orthopedic Surgeon; she writes both fiction and nonfiction. She first entered the business and book world to inform and explain to patients much often unexplained about surgical and medical care, and continues to fulfill this mission today with published books, and articles written for Vogue Magazine, Sunrise River Press, The Wall Street Journal, American Medical News, Medical Tribune, Nations Business and others.
After her medical studies, Dr. Hecht became the Assistant Chief of Orthopedics at Elmhurst Hospital, an affiliate of Mount Sinai School of Medicine; she then established the country’s first group of surgeons devoted solely to rendering second opinions for elective surgery, “The Hecht Group Second Surgical Opinion Institution.”