Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fallproofing Your Stairs


Stairs present a major issue for caregivers and our seniors who have difficulty climbing them. The falls from stairs can be even more traumatic than the ‘simple’ falls that happen from missing footing, as one must deal with the elevation. Also, falling on an uneven surface creates more potential for harm.
Many factors can contribute to a tumble down the stairs, the same factors that can contribute to a general fall:
  • Poor vision
  • Balance issues
  • Loss of coordination
  • Reduced strength
When combined, these factors can make for some nasty spills.  While having a medical alert bracelet can help for the after care, it doesn’t do very much good for preventing the fall itself.
Falling on the stairs in the home, even with the presence of a medical care bracelet or necklace, can have tragic effects like:
  • Longer Hospital Stays
  • Earlier Need For Assisted Living
  • Increased and dramatic fear of falling
  • Broken bones
  • Brain injuries
The easiest way to avoid the issue and the need for stair safety is the complete avoidance of stairs altogether.  Many of our seniors and caregivers have taken the stairs out of the picture and live just as well on the first floor as they did with two.
This particular option, while it does reduce the chances of falling down stairs, is not always feasible for our elders.  In most cases, the way that the house is set up determines the need for stairs.
So, in that light, we have to do everything possible to reduce the chances of falling down those stairs and having to use our emergency alert bracelets.
Other than removing the stairs option altogether, what can make the stairs safer?
Home Stair Lift
One choice is getting a home stair lift.  Home stair lifts can cost thousands of dollars, but they are well worth it if a senior needs the second floor and expects to be in the same place for any length of time.  
Install Handrails
If you have the opportunity, installing handrails on the stairs will not only help with balance, but it will also improve confidence levels when it comes to falling.  The fear of falling and having to use that medical alert bracelet might indeed contribute to shakiness and indeed cause a fall. Handrails should be installed on both sides of the staircase if possible
Put in Good Lighting.
You don’t want the lighting that you’ve got over your stairs to resemble a haunted house! The right lighting at the top and the bottom of the stairs can help those who have poor vision see a little bit better.  Are there switches at both the top and bottom?  Are the bulbs bright enough?
Look at the Carpets
Carpeting can definitely get in the way of people who are trying to go up or down the stairs. A little scuff where the material is slightly up on the stair can cause a great tumble and potentially a need for using the bracelet for a medical emergency.  Make sure that the carpet is tamped down or removed altogether.
The concerns that you have over a loved one climbing up and down the stairs are valid. There might be balance issues at stake, or perhaps something about the vision of your loved one that might make you concerned.  They should always have their emergency bracelets available, but you can also encourage them to use just the lower floor until the stairs are made safer.

What should you do if you fall?

Hopefully, you would have a medical alert pendant with you to summon help, or even one with automatic fall detection in the event you could not speak. In any case, do not attempt to get up too suddenly, until you fully understand where you are and what condition you are in. Only then should you attempt to move and get back on your feet, if you are able to.