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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Preventing Falls

Published August 31, 2015 12:52 PM by Debra Karplus

A friend's father, a robust and relatively healthy man in his eighties, went down to the basement to assess the water damage after recent heavy rains and fell.  One problem lead to another and within about six weeks, he passed away.  We had just been at a barbecue with him right before his fall, and it was hard to imagine such a quick demise.

A patient of mine in his forties had been doing some routine maintenance on the roof of his house.  A generally careful man, he tumbled off the roof.  He's now quadriplegic as the result of this fall.

A home gym is handy and convenient and a wonderful way to stay fit.  One man fell off his treadmill at home.  He hit his head and ultimately died from this fall. Treadmill accidents are more common than one might imagine.  Another man that I know still has shoulder issues from a fall from his treadmill over a decade ago.

An ordinary trip to the supermarket turned dangerous for one friend.  She likes to buy her produce at a particular store, and indeed, the food there looks beautiful.  But she showed up right after they had sprayed the vegetables with water.  She slipped on a wet spot, ended up falling, injured a hip and is in the process of litigation.

Icy weather can throw a curve ball toward being safe, even for very careful individuals. A gentleman that I know went out to get the mail, slipped on an ice patch and fell in his driveway.  He ended up with an ankle injury.

I pride myself in being very cautious, but I have not been immune to falling.  I have taken a few little spills off my bicycle that fortunately caused nothing more than a laceration to my knee.  Once I tripped on the stairs while carrying laundry and talking on the phone at the same time.  I wasn't really injured but it was a good reminder that multi-tasking is sometimes not a good idea.  More recently, I was in the shower and slid on a small glob of hair conditioner on the bottom of the tub.  Again, I was lucky to have dodged any injury.

The Center for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/) in a July 2015 report states that twenty to thirty percent of falls result in moderate to severe injury such as hip fractures and head injuries.  A good number of these falls occur at home to careful folks performing ordinary tasks.

We as occupational therapy practitioners can informally at home and with our own family and friends, and professionally in our clinics and home visits with patients, can use our expertise and fine bedside manner to guide people toward making their homes safe - especially in the bathroom, where a good amount of falls occur.  Get rid of throw rugs. Install grab bars.  Keep clutter away from stairways.  Improve lighting.  Make the kitchen ergonomically a better place.

What has been your experience with fall prevention?

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