Slip Proofing Your Home

Jack and Jill, a Mother Goose nursery rhymeBy Brian Schiller

Here are just a few of the statistics:

  • Each year in the United States, one of every three persons over the age of 65 will experience a fall. Half of which are repeat fallers.
  • For people aged 65-84 years, falls are the second leading cause of injury-related death; for those aged 85 years or older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death.
  • Falls account for 87% of all fractures among people over the age of 65 and are the second leading cause of spinal cord and brain injury.
  • Half of all elderly adults (over the age of 65) hospitalized for hip fractures cannot return home or live independently after the fracture.

Elderly people face an increased risk of slips, trips and falls due to diminished mobility, strength and balance that comes naturally with old age.  The increased risk of falling is coupled with a higher likelihood of health complications related to the fall. An elderly person faces twice the chance of death due to falls than younger people according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Avoiding slip, trip and fall accidents can be one of the most difficult safety issues to address when you’re getting older.  Why is this?  Well, pretty much everywhere you go you have to do some walking and simply put, there are a lot of places both inside and outside the home that can be serious slip and fall hazards.

When it comes to anti slip solutions there are some things you can control and some you can’t.  Fortunately, your own home is something you can, so it’s important to address the potential for slip and fall accidents where you can.  Your home is also likely where you spend the majority of your time, so the chances of a slip and fall accident at home are greatest.

If you can afford to hire an expert or someone who specializes in home safety for the elderly, hiring such an individual is a great place to start.  Either way, you can begin by taking a tour of your home to evaluate each room. Make sure that all light fixtures and switches are working properly.  Many falls occur due to darkness or from tripping over loose objects on the floor.  Make sure that wiring is not anywhere within the path that someone might walk or catch their feet.  Try to secure furniture or table skirts so that they are not hanging out in the open.

Determine which of your flooring is most likely to cause problems.  The obvious 1-2 punch in any home is the bathroom and kitchen.  Bathtubs and showers are probably the 1st place to start.  Wet conditions aggravated by the presence of soaps, conditioners and shampoo make the tub or shower of particular concern.  If necessary, you can install grab bars on the walls of the area for support.  At the same time, having something to support your footing is equally important.  If your feet slip the grab bar won’t be of much help.  Bath mats are an option to create a non skid tub or shower floor, as are slip resistant coatings that can be applied to tubs and showers leaving an invisible anti slip finish.  There are also a wide array of seating options for tubs and showers that are available in big box stores, medical supply and drug stores.

Kitchen and bathroom floors usually feature some kind of hard, non-porous, or sealed flooring for wet conditions that need to be water-resistant.  Again, look to floor mats and area rugs that will maintain a good Coefficient of Friction in wet conditions for areas around sinks.  For the rest of the flooring, slip resistant coatings are available that are both easy and safe to apply and that will adhere and look great on any flooring.  SolidStepCote is a recommended solution that is clear, works on all flooring and is easy to clean and maintain.  It also has the added benefit of being an environmentally friendly product.

Other areas to consider include indoor and outdoor steps.  Install railings where applicable.  Indoor stairs can be made slip resistant with a number of solutions including rugs, sandpaper strips or again anti slip coatings — outdoor stairs with coatings, sandpaper strips or metal diamond plate treads.  Garage floors are often polished and slippery.  Look to anti slip coatings or textured rubberized flooring products to solve this problem.

Finally, the use of a walking aid such as a cane or walking stick is always a good idea.  This is almost like having a 3rd leg to support yourself.  When possible, wear shoes with rubber soles that have traction.  Tread in a shoe’s soles will greatly reduce the chance of hydroplaning on a wet surface.   A slip and fall or trip and fall accident can often be avoided by taking some of these very simple precautions.

Be aware of the dangers of slip, trip and falls, as the consequences can be dire for elderly people.  If you have not already done so, take time to take the proper precautions now to create a safe home environment.  The small amount of time and the inconvenience of preparing your home in advance to prevent slips, trips and falls is a small matter compared to losing your health, mobility and potentially your very life.

About the Author

Brian Schiller is Director of Sales & Marketing at Liquiguard Technologies, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Brian has been involved in recommending and promoting anti-slip coatings and treatments to a range of markets including flooring and bathtub manufacturers, distributors, bathtub refinishers, property management companies, architects, designers and engineers.

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