The holidays are about spending time with family and friends. And while many people focus on fulfilling holiday traditions like decorating their homes, shopping for presents, and hosting parties, they often forget to fall-proof their homes.
Falls are dangerous and can cause serious fractures that could impact one’s ability to move and carry-out daily functions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 300,000 adults age 65 years and older, are hospitalized for hip fractures each year, and more than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling.
“While older people are at an increased risk for falls due to the normal effects of aging such as decreased quality of vision, balance and strength, a popular misconception is that they’re the only ones at risk,” said orthopaedic trauma surgeon and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeon spokesperson Lisa Cannada, MD. “The reality is people of all ages are at risk for falls due to environmental and health factors. The first step to reducing your risk is making necessary changes in your home.”
Fall-proofing is not only beneficial for new house guests who are visiting this season. It’s also helpful to people who are familiar with their home surroundings. The AAOS and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA), whose members treat patients who sustain fractures and injuries from a fall, encourage everyone to consider the following tips to enjoy a fall-free holiday:
- Reduce clutter. It’s easy to accumulate clutter, such as boxes of decor and stacks of gifts from holiday shopping. Take the time to declutter your home, especially the hallways and stairs.
- Designate a play area. Children may receive lots of new toys for the holidays and scatter them around the house. It’s important to contain those toys in a dedicated play area and clean up the toys after kids are done playing to avoid tripping.
- Keep walkways clear. Keep the path between your front door, driveway and mailbox well-lit and clear of debris.
- Install nightlights. Keep the halls/walkways in your home well-lit and consider a nightlight in your bathroom. A clear path is especially helpful for family members or guests who are trying to get to the restroom in the middle of the night.
- Secure all loose area rugs. Place double-sided carpet tape or slip-resistant backing on all loose rugs around your home including the bathroom.
- Rearrange furniture. Ensure no furniture is blocking pathways between rooms.
- Consider stair gates. If you have young kids who will be visiting for the holidays, or who live in your home, consider installing child-proof gates at the top and bottom of your stairs to prevent children from accessing them without adult supervision.
- If a fall happens, do not panic. Take several deep breaths, assess the situation and determine if you are hurt. If you are badly injured do not try to get up, instead, call for help from a family member or a neighbor. If you are alone when a fall happens, slowly crawl to the telephone and call 911 or relatives.
For more fall-proofing safety tips visit the AAOS and OTA Falls Awareness and Prevention Guide.