Written by Bukola Adebayo - Nigeria
Did you know that the easiest place you or your kids can get injured is on those flashy tiles and marble floors, both of which are now the standard décor for many modern homes?
Those sparkly new blue tiles in your bathroom can expose you to some falls that could cause lifelong disabilities; and, in extreme circumstances, a fall could be fatal.
Oh yes! Domestic falls sometimes lead to fractures and, in cruel cases, broken skulls or instant death.
Some victims suffer physical and mental disabilities from a fall down the stairs, on glossy tiles in the living room or on the marbles in their patio. Experts say that if the appropriate precaution is not taken, your home may pose a threat to your health.
According to experts, preventing a fatal fall in the home goes beyond parents shouting at kids not to play around or walk on a wet or slippery floor. They note that if falls were limited to a particular age group, adults who should know better would not be victims of this simple but sometimes fatal incident.
Health education and awareness expert, Dr. Ken Kemblay Jnr., and Dr. Christian Barber, who co-authored a book entitled, "Preventing Falls in Daily Life," say domestic falls sometimes go beyond carelessness.
The authors highlighted five interesting risk factors why individuals fall, either at home, in the office or outdoors and add that they are preventable and also manageable. What are the risks?
Kemblay notes that at least one-third of all falls among toddlers and the elderly involve environmental hazards in the home.
"The most common hazard for falls is tripping over objects on the floor. Other factors include poor lighting, loose rugs, lack of grab bars or poorly located/mounted grab bars, and unsturdy furniture," he says.
To prevent such domestic falls, the authors advise parents to conduct a walk-through of their home to identify possible problems that may lead to a fall. A home visit by an interior designer or occupational therapist might also be useful, in that they are trained to identify risk factors and recommend appropriate actions.
Orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Tope Olorunnmibe, says the human bone and joint structure grows weaker as people grow older, making them more prone to fractures and falls. He notes that hormonal changes, calcium and vitamin D deficiency, and a decrease in physical activities are some of the factors responsible for weak bones, also known as osteoporosis.
He says, "Women are more predisposed to this condition. Osteoporosis is a chief cause of fractures in older adults, especially. A change in diet to boost calcium levels can help strengthen and toughen the bones."
Olorunnmibe says that those who do not exercise regularly are likely to lose bone mass over time, which would result in poor muscle tone and flexibility. He warns that a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to falls and the severity of the injury that follows.
Ophthalmologists say that certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls. They note that eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma can alter one's perception of depth and other visual clues. These limitations hinder people's ability to safely negotiate their environment, whether it is in their own home or in a shopping mall.
"Before you hurt yourself in a fall, if you think you are not seeing clearly, please see an ophthalmologist," they advise.
Individuals on sedatives, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotic drugs may have to be careful with the way they race down the stairs, come out of the shower and their alcohol intake. Barber notes that medications and alcohol contribute to falls by reducing people's mental alertness, worsening balance and gait, and causing drops in systolic blood pressure while standing.
He advises that patients should always read the side effects of any drug prescribed for them and also make necessary life-style changes while on the medication.
Remove home hazards: Take a look around your home. Your living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways should be of interest. To make your home safer:
- Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
- Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
- Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing – or remove loose rugs from your home.
- Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting right away.
- Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
- Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
- Use non-slip mats in your bathtub or shower.
Keep moving: Physical activities can go a long way toward fall prevention. With your doctor's permit, consider activities such as walking and other gentle exercises that involve slow and graceful dance-like movements. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.