With shelter in place restrictions across the nation, social distancing may be the best option to protect your health in this current climate. But not acknowledging the dangers in your home while sheltering in place can bring risk for a fall injury. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) reminds people of all ages to be mindful of their surroundings in their homes in effort to maintain optimal bone and joint health.
“Not all falls cause serious injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, one out of five falls does cause a serious injury such as a broken bone or even a head injury,” said orthopaedic trauma surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Todd Swenning, MD, FAAOS. “And while common perception is that falls only happen to older populations, the truth is that anyone is susceptible especially with increased family members in the home or changes to your daily routine. The good news is that most falls can be prevented with a few simple precautions.”
The AAOS encourages you to walk through every room in your home to identify fall-risks.
Wear appropriate footwear
Wearing sturdy and proper footwear while in the house can help prevent falls.
• Make sure your shoes are properly tied
• Avoid socks without grips and replace stretched out or loose slippers
Consider bedroom modifications
A lack of lighting and clutter in a bedroom can make navigating a bedroom difficult.
• Place a lamp, telephone, or flashlight near your bed
• Sleep on a bed that is easy to get into and out of
• Install a nightlight along the route between your bedroom and the bathroom
• Arrange clothes in your closet so that they are easy to reach
Adjust living areas
Thick carpets and floor clutter can be dangerous for those with balance issues or mobility issues.
• Arrange furniture so you have a clear pathway between rooms
• Install easy-access light switches at room entrances so youwill not have to walk into a dark room in order to turn on the light. Glow-in-the-dark switches also may be helpful.
• Do not run extension cords across pathways; rearrange furniture
• Secure loose area rugs with double-faced tape, tacks, or slip-resistant backing
• Do not sit in a chair or on a sofa that is so low that it is difficult to stand up
Alter placement in heavy traffic areas like the kitchen
With children home from school and more “co-workers” in
the kitchen, the likelihood for spills and trash increases.
• Clean up immediately any liquids, grease, or food spilled on the floor
• Store food, dishes, and cooking equipment within easy reach
• Do not stand on chairs or boxes to reach upper cabinets
Pay attention to the stairs
Ensure stairs are clearly lit to create an unobstructed view and path.
• Keep flashlights nearby in case of a power outage
• Keep stairs clear of packages, boxes, or clutter
• Repair loose stairway carpeting or wooden boards immediately
Keep a careful eye on the bathroom
With so many slick, hard surfaces and extra moisture,
the often-confined bathroom space can pose some dangerous conditions.
• Use a rubber mat or place nonskid adhesive textured strips inside the tub
• Keep a nightlight in the bathroom
• Place a slip-resistant rug adjacent to the bathtub for safe exit and entry
• Never rush.
The AAOS notes that fall prevention at home goes beyond removing trip-and-fall hazards. Maintaining healthy bones and joints by staying physically active and adhering to a diet that includes plenty of calcium and Vitamin D will help improve balance and mobility confidence. Avoiding over consumption of alcohol and being aware of side effects if taking a medication will also help you be mindful of fatigue, balance limitations or confusion.
“We are working hard to reduce the need for people to go to the hospital during the COVID-19 crisis, not only to relieve pressure on staff, but also because we don’t want patients or healthcare workers exposed unnecessarily to the possibility of a COVID-19 infection,” added Swenning. “However, accidents do happen and if you need immediate assistance, call 911. Orthopaedic surgeons are also available via telemedicine for non-urgent bone and joint care, like a wrist injury, acute back pain, or a swollen knee.”
Information for this article was provided by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. With more than 39,000 members, the AAOS is the world’s largest medical association of musculoskeletal specialists. The AAOS is the trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal health. It provides the highest quality, most comprehensive education to help orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals at every career level to best treat patients in their daily practices. The AAOS is the source for information on bone and joint conditions, treatments and related musculoskeletal health care issues and it leads the health care discussion on advancing quality. For more guidelines on preventing falls, visit OrthoInfo.org.