April Falls Day: Staying safe at home

28 March 2018

Falls prevention is a major consideration when it comes to supporting people to remain safe and independent in their home. 

Living with blindness or low vision can present some extra challenges to this, so we caught up with Vision Australia Occupational Therapist Lisa Gormley for some advice on what can be done to make the home a safer environment. 

Arranging your home

Everyone wants their home to be inviting and comfortable, however Lisa says people should consider how arranging furniture and other household items could increase the risk of a fall.
 
"One thing you want to do is to make sure that walkways are clear," Lisa says. 

"You don't want the edge of something like a lounge or table intruding into walkways. When you're arranging furniture, make sure there is enough space so that people can easily navigate hallways and other common pathways," she says.
 
The placement of rugs and mats should also be considered, Lisa says. 

"Rugs and mats are common trip hazard and cause of falls. 

"If you are going to place them around your home, make sure they're kept flat, are non-slip, and ensure they contrast against other surfaces."

It may seem like common sense, but Lisa says it's important that cords are kept organised and not allowed to run across areas where people walk.

Lighting

It may not be the first thing that people think of, but it can play a major part in falls prevention.
 
"Generally the brighter an area is the safer it will be from a falls prevention standpoint," Lisa says.

"This could be just increasing the overall lighting in a room or area of the house or lighting that is specific for a certain task or area where there might be a risk."

Lisa said common fall risks like stairs are an area of the house that can be made safer by improving lighting. Vision Australia Occupational Therapists can perform lighting assessments to identify where improvements can be made. 

Rails

Rails are likely to be one of the first thing that people think of when it comes to falls prevention and Lisa says they do have an important role. 

 "Obviously if you've got stairs, in or outside the house, they are an area where rails are definitely important."

While rails seem an obvious solution, Lisa says it's important that people get the right advice before going ahead with an installation. 

"Around the home we often see rails that aren't appropriate for the client. It is important that the person is assessed in the home to see which type of rail is suitable for them for the task they are doing, and exactly where the rail needs to be positioned so that the person is not injured when using it. 

"In areas like the bathroom where people might be stepping in and out of the bath or shower, or bending over to wash or dry themselves whilst standing on a wet floor, rails can definitely provide that much needed extra support and stability. 

An Occupational Therapy assessment can also help identify if any other aids, such as a shower chair, used in conjunction with a rail, may further prevent falls. 

How others can help

Though home modifications can be an important part of falls prevention, family members, carers and friends can also help to make the home a safe environment. 

"For people who are blind or have low vision, keeping things organised is extremely important," Lisa says. 

"If you move a chair or something from its usual spot it's key to let anybody who is blind or has low vision that it's been moved and then to also make sure that it's returned to the usual spot."

Care should also be taken to make sure intermittent hazards are removed quickly. 

"Wet floors in areas such as the bathroom and kitchen can obviously pose a risk, as do bags, shoes, and slippers left on the floor next to beds and other furniture. Again it's important to make people aware that there is a risk and to also remove this risk as soon as possible."

In case of a fall

If a fall does occur, it's vital an individual can alert others that they require assistance, which is where technology can help. 
"There are a few options that people can use to get help in case of a fall. There's the option of an emergency pendant that people wear that connects them to a 24/7 call centre who can then provide assistance. 

"There are also cheaper options like phones with built-in emergency diallers. They allow people to program four or five numbers for friends and family that can be contacted in an emergency. This type of device will continue to call each emergency contact until someone answers. 

"Where the person does not have a pendant alarm, making sure there is a landline or mobile phone on a low table, rather than mounted on the wall, will make it easier for the person to call for help when home alone."

In the case of a person falling in the home, it is best to check if and where they are injured before trying to help them up from the floor. Always try to assist them onto a chair or bed if possible, rather than trying to get them to stand up. Do not try to lift a person directly off the floor.

Find out more about Vision Occupational Therapy Services here or get in touch via info@visionaustralia.org or phone 1300 84 74 66.