Occupational Therapy Tips
Fall Prevention – “Task Tip”
Do you carry a laundry basket up and down your stairs? This task puts you in an awkward position and may lead to a fall. Instead of carrying a laundry basket, sort your laundry on your bed and place it into fabric/ mesh bags. Carry one mesh bag downstairs over your shoulder, leaving both hands free for the railings. When your clothes/ linens are dry, carry the mesh bag upstairs and sort laundry on your bed or an alternate work surface at roughly hip height. Where do you find a mesh laundry bag? Try the house ware section of a department store.
Fall Prevention - In Your Home
Bedroom – Use a night light and ensure you have access to a lamp / light at your bedside. You should have a well lit path to the bathroom at night. Keep pathways uncluttered and free of extension cords. Keep a cordless phone next to your bed.
Bathroom – Use a non-skid mat in your tub. Place it on the dry surface of the tub before a shower/ bath. Use grab bars. They are inexpensive compared to the cost and agony of injury if you slip in the tub. How is the lighting in your shower when the curtain / door is closed? Dim light in a shower can be dangerous. Ensure you have adequate lighting in all areas of your bathroom.
Kitchen – Keep frequently used items within easy reach. If you have items stored above head, use a step ladder with a handle. These ladders have 2 or 3 steps and collapse for storage in a broom closet.
Stairs – Ideally, you should have 2 railings on any set of stairs. The stairs should be well lit at the top and bottom. Stairs to a cellar may be very steep with limited head room. These types of stairs are dangerous. A caregiver or family member can access items in the cellar for you.
Living Room – Do you have area rugs? The rugs can be anchored with double sided tape or carpet backing. Use a cordless phone. If possible have a double handset or two cordless phones on the main floor.
Entrance to Your Home – Stairs should ideally have a railing on each side and non-slid treads on each step. There should be an exterior light to illuminate both the top and bottom of your stairs. Check the pathway from your front door to your car / driveway. Are there any obstacles which could cause you to trip?
Footwear – For outdoor and community activity, choose comfortable shoes with low heels and non-skid soles. In winter, you can wear a pair of ice cleats over your shoes for better grip in snow and on ice. Indoor footwear should have non-skid soles and should fit around your heel.
Mobility Aids – If you use a cane or walker, ensure it is at the correct height for you. In winter you can use an ice pick on the end of your cane. A wheeled walker with a seat and basket can be used to transport items in your home. With the wheeled walker, you have support and can still take a sandwich, portable phone, and a magazine to another room.
Fall Prevention - Lifestyle Tips
Healthy Eating – Consult the Canada Food Guide as a reminder of types of foods, portion size, and special requirements for your age. If you feel weak early in the morning, have a small snack before getting up, e.g., a juice box in your bedside table.
Sleeping – Sleeping can be a problem for many people and lack of sleep will make you tired and can compromise your balance and vision. Try to get enough rest and if sleeping is a problem find tips on sleep.
Medications – Review your medications with your family doctor. Medications can impair balance and coordination. Remember to discuss any non-prescription / over the counter medications you take as well. Drinking alcohol can impair your balance and coordination and cause problems when mixed with medications.
Exercise – Walking, dancing, bowling, gardening, and Tai Chi are perfect examples of the types of exercise which improve balance, strength, and flexibility. Tai Chi also helps to enforce healthy postures as they relate to daily activities. Daily aerobic activity, e.g., walking, is beneficial for both your physical health and mental well being. Aerobic activity is known to improve concentration, elevate mood, and improve sleep.
Vision and Hearing – Your vision and hearing should be checked by a professional. Your lens prescription or hearing aids may need to be updated.
Blood Pressure – Do you have low blood pressure? Get up slowly from sitting or lying down to prevent dizziness.
Slow Down - In my experience over the past 15 years, many falls in the home have resulted when a person rushed to answer the phone or the door. He / she felt dizzy when getting up quickly then stumbled to get out of the chair or stumbled for other reasons, e.g., footwear, area rug, electrical cord. Take time to slow down, let your voice mail take the message, or return the call when you have time. Ask for help when you need it.
Falls are not a normal part of aging but unfortunately they are a common occurrence. Keep healthy and try to beware of the risks in your home.