Falling is one of the most common ways people injure themselves, especially at home. Young, adult or elderly, it can happen to anyone. All it takes is one little misstep, a slippery floor or an unexpected object in your path.
The outcome of a fall could be as small as a faint scrape or as serious as a bump on the head, a sprain or a broken bone. Shockingly, a 2018 report by the WHO listed falling as the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in the world. Homes, especially if you have a big family or a lot of visitors, put a lot of variables in play. Things move around, pets get underfoot and objects are strewn around to trip over. All this and more, make homes accident-prone zones. Fortunately, there is plenty we can do to prevent these falls.
While considering home safety it’s also worth making sure that you have the right level of home insurance. For more information on home insurance visit: ami.co.nz/house-insurance.
Here’s what you can do to minimise the risk of falling at home:
Think about your floors: Granite and marble floors are so smooth that they make it easy for anyone to slip and fall. Wooden floors are not naturally slippery but they become so when they are polished. If your floors make you slip and slide, wear slippers at home with rubber soles or a good tread. These will keep you steady on your feet.
Clear away clutter: A clear floor makes it difficult to trip over anything and this is exactly what you want. Even if you’re a messy person, try and keep the clutter above floor level. If you have children, make it a rule to clear things away after playtime and have designated areas to store all toys and sports equipment.
Prevent missteps: The stairs are another accident-prone zone. Take them at a steady pace, running up or down them doesn’t usually end well. It doesn’t hurt to hold on to the handrail. If your stairs have carpeting, check to ensure it hasn’t come loose anywhere. It needs to sit taut and stick firmly to the floor. Otherwise your foot could get caught in it and result in a nasty tumble. Also, routinely check for loose stairs.
Clean up spills immediately: It is common for food or water to spill in the kitchen or in the bathroom so keep an eye out for this. Clean up anything on the floor right away rather than later. Watch out for water that has splashed out of the tub or shower area when you go in.
Rubber mats and grab-bars: Bathroom tiles can be quite slippery when wet, and non-slip rubber mats are a good way to counter this. Install grab-bars to make it easier to get out of the tub or the shower. Towel racks are not designed to support your weight and may give way when you grab them.
Use step stools: In the kitchen, it is best to keep what you need at waist level or within easy reach. But if you absolutely have to climb to reach something, use a step stool instead of a chair or a counter stool. Chairs are not made for you to stand on them and could easily give way underneath you.
Install good lighting: Have bright lights installed at the top and bottom of staircases so everyone can see each step clearly. Have lamps in easy reach so you can turn them on when you need to use the loo in the middle of the night. If you have a garden, have lights illuminating the garden path, the back door and the porch so you can watch where you step.
Don’t forget your garden: Rain can make outdoor steps and garden paths slippery so tread carefully. Rainy weather and wet areas encourage the growth of slippery and slimy moss that you need to watch for. Garden tools, cycles, skates, balls and other objects should be put away and not be strewn around for you to trip over.
Pets: If you have cats and dogs, they may have inconvenient napping spots like doorways, at the top or bottom of stairs or right next to your bed. This often has you turning into an acrobat just to get across, putting you at high risk of falling (and injuring your pet as well). Train your pet to move on command or discourage them from these inconvenient spots by offering them more comfortable, suitably positioned nap spaces.
Medication: If you’re taking any medication, it is a good idea to check if it could make you unsteady. Speak to your doctor about an alternative if it is something you take regularly. If it is a one-time thing, have a friend take care of you for a while and restrict your movement.
Clothes and shoes: You can get your foot caught in the hem of skirts, dresses or pants that are too long. Also, the soles of your shoes wear out over time and the texture or tread on them smoothen out. This makes you more prone to slipping. Heels that are not strong can give way and give you a nasty ankle injury. Invest in good quality shoes and replace and resole them as required.
Rugs and mats: A good rug can certainly pull the décor of a room together but if it isn’t taped down or held in place, it can cause people to trip and fall. Make sure your carpets, rugs and mats are taped down firmly.
Pay attention: Just paying attention to where you’re walking is invaluable when it comes to preventing accidents. Make it a habit to put away phones, iPads and other tech that may distract you when you’re walking even inside your homes. The most painful accidents seem to happen when you’re in a hurry so even if you’re late, remember that being a few minutes late is preferable to visiting a hospital.
Fix things: Often accidents are caused by that thing you’ve been meaning to fix but haven’t gotten around to yet. It could be a flimsy handrail, a loose stair or that spot where the carpeting has come undone. Get these things dealt with as soon as possible. Even if you have to hire a professional to do it.
Falls are painful and often avoidable incidents that affect all age groups but can be particularly devastating for children and senior citizens. So, precautionary measures are highly recommended to keep your loved ones safe. In this case, it is better to invest some money to prevent accidents rather than foot a larger bill that comes from a hospital.