Health Beat – April 2014

Heart

Dr. Lesley Fernow writes a column called “Senior Matters” for the Piscataquis Observer in Dover Foxcroft. Valley Grange is privileged to have permission to use her past columns for our  “Health Beat” Feature and for the information to be reposted to the Maine State Grange website. Address your questions or comments  to lmf@fernowmedicalhousecalls.com, 207-992-6822. Please note that information is general in nature and specific questions should be addressed to your health care professional.

Home Safety for Seniors

Aging in place requires a safe, comfortable environment that is adaptable to changing needs as people age.  Since aging is often accompanied by physical changes such as decline in vision, balance, hearing, reflexes, and strength, accommodations must be made to the home to allow a person to function safely.  Below are the top suggestions of experts that will help prevent injury.  The first several address the most frequent cause of injury:  falls.  In other articles we will explore more specific recommendations for fall risk prevention.

  •  Place frequently used items within reach. Never stand on chairs or stools to reach upper shelves.
  • Remove potential tripping hazards: electric cords, low-lying furniture (coffee     tables), area rugs, loose carpet.
  • Even out differences in floor heights from room to room by installing beveled thresholds
  • Footwear worn at home should have non-skid soles and be in good condition.
  • Check stairways for safety: treads that are secure, carpeting that is not loose or worn, even heights of risers, take care of any protruding nails, get rid of clutter stored on steps, install secure handrails on both sides of stairs, etc.
  • Install night lights in halls, bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Don’t use chairs with rollers on the legs.
  • Replace handles on doors, cabinets, and furniture that makes grasping them easier.  Bar-shaped door handles are often easier with arthritis.
  • Use non-skid mats in showers and tubs.  Install sturdy rails in showers and a bench if balance is a problem.
  • Inspect walkways and driveways and repair any problem areas.
  • Light entryways, pathways and yards.
  • Install or inspect smoke alarms to assure proper functioning.
  • Check that small appliances are working properly and are in good condition, e.g., toasters, space heaters, blenders, coffee makers, microwaves, etc.  Use of such appliances can be dangerous if near flammable materials.  This is particularly risky in the elderly.
  • Post all emergency numbers in large print near the phone or on the refrigerator, i.e. emergency contacts, doctors, poison control. Program the phone with all emergency numbers and important contacts.
  • Store all medicines safely.   A further Senior Matters article will cover medication safety.
  • Install ramps outside and inside the home where necessary for wheelchairs.