The Center for Disease Control reported that in the year 2002 more than 12,800 people over the age of 65 died due to falling. An additional 1.6 million went to the emergency room for the same reason. What looks like a typical home may be wearing the disguise of being a death trap for those in advanced years. The CDC has a room-by-room checklist to make homes safer for older people.

The kitchen should not have needed items on high shelves that would require a step stool. Remove all throw rugs that do not have a non-slip backing, however even with a non-slip backing caution is needed as they can cause a person to trip and stumble.

In the bathroom, check the tub or shower floor to see how slippery it is. A non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips may be needed. The most important step is installing a grab-bar for getting in and out of the tub or shower. Having a grab-bar next to the toilet also gives assistance to eliminate the unsteadiness while getting dressed. Again, look for throw rugs that could cause tripping or slipping.

In the stairwell, make sure ample lighting is provided. Make sure a light switch is at both the top and bottom of the staircase. An electrician can install an additional light switch. Check staircases for loose or torn carpeting. It may be necessary to replace carpeting with non-slip rubber treads. Bee sure to check all handrails to see if they are loose or broken. Handrails should be on both sides of a staircase and consider painting the edge of each step a contrasting color.

In the bedroom make sure the light near the bed is not difficult to reach. Place a night light so that the path from the bed to the bathroom is well-lit for nighttime bathroom visits.

Every room should be free of clutter on the floors and furniture that must be maneuvered around should be rearranged or cleared out. No electrical cords should be in the walking path. If an additional electrical outlet is needed to eliminate a cord crossing the floor, then an electrician can install one.

Other preventative measures for keeping older people active is to exercise regularly to improve balance and coordination. Check to see if any medications both prescription and over the counter cause sleepiness, blurred vision or dizziness. Vision checks should be done at least once a year. All rooms should be well-lit.

Keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone. Wear an alarm device that will call for help incase of a fall. Some alarms require a monthly fee that alerts a company who can dial for help, other devices do not have a monthly fee. Contact your local pharmacy to ask questions concerning these alarms.

— Marla Ballard’s Master of Disguise appears each Thursday.

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