Monday, May 19, 2014


Make safety at home a priority

My friend and nurse colleague Gillian Mosier, RN, MSN, is the Backus Trauma Program coordinator.  I recently asked her thoughts about the most prevalent safety issue she encounters.  Her answer shouldn’t have surprised me.  She said about 60% of all trauma cases presenting in the Emergency Department are injuries resulting from accidental falls.  It’s disheartening to see so much pain and suffering when most accidents are preventable. 

Many scenarios can cause a fall.  For older folks, eyesight, hearing and reflexes might not be as sharp as they were when were younger.  Diabetes or heart disease can cause balance problems and numbness of hands and feet.  Some medications can cause drowsiness or dizziness.  Discuss these issues with your primary care provider. 

Regardless of age, making our homes safe should be a priority for all of us.

On the stairs or in the hallway:
•  Keep pathways free of clutter, and never leave anything on the stairs.
•  Install handrails on the stairs, tightly fastened.
•  Use the handrails going up or down stairs.
•  If carrying something, hold the item in one hand and use the handrail with the other.
•  Don’t let what you’re carrying block your view of the steps.
•  Don’t go up or down the stairs in socks or high heels, where you can easily slip.
•  Make sure there is adequate lighting in hallways, and a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairway.

In the bathroom:
•  There should be a secure hand rail or place to grab when getting in and out of the tub or shower. This is true for people of any age.  When my son was three years old, he slipped and fell coming out of the bathtub even though I was right there with him.  He still has the scar on his chin to prove it. 
•  Place non-skid mats in the shower and on bathroom floors.

In all living areas:  
•  Keep electric cords near walls and away from walkways.
•  Don’t stand on a chair or table to reach something that is too high. 
•  Tack down all carpets and large areas rugs firmly to the floor.
•  And my personal pet peeve:  Get rid of throw rugs or small area rugs.  When I was a home care nurse I called them “hip-breakers.”

Falls can’t always be prevented, but if we follow these safety basics we can make our homes a safer place.  Some of these tips are very easy fixes, yet are often overlooked.  Let’s strive to be more accident-free.  Let’s keep my friend and nurse colleague Gillian happy by making her acquaintance in a local restaurant instead of in the Emergency Department.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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