I’m teaching my dog to be Lassie. Each morning at the end of our walk, after we cross the street and are safely on our block, I take off his leash. Then I say in a loud voice, “Run to your yard! Run home!” He makes a mad freedom-dash up the sidewalk and around the corner past the laurel trees that line our property. By the time I catch up with him, he’s inside his gated play-yard, panting, waiting for my next command.
There are two reasons for this exercise. One, it’s fun for the dog (and me) to work on new tricks. And two, if I ever fall and can’t get up, I hope my husband will be home or a neighbor will see the dog and send help.
Falling at home or while out walking the dog is a real likelihood the older I get, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And though I’m still some years away from the over-65 statistical category of older adults, my young dog has a lifespan of 15 – so I’m planning on his help at some point.
The CDC says falls at home or during recreational activities are the leading cause of injury and fatality among the elderly:
- One out of five falls among people 65 and older results in serious injury.
- 8 million older people are treated in emergency rooms each year because of falls with more than 800,000 hospitalized, mostly for hip fractures or head trauma.
- About 58 deaths per 100,000 in this age group were attributed to accidental falls in 2014.
- Home hazards are a leading cause of falls.
Planning is key. Forget silly pet tricks – making your (or your parents’) home a barrier-free living space can reduce the risk of falling. The first simple steps to take include:
- Removing trip hazards such as scatter rugs and trailing electrical cords
- Rearranging furniture to allow freedom of movement in and between rooms;
- Adding more lighting for better visual cues
- Making sure floors and steps are in good condition
- Adding safety bars in bathrooms and handrails on both sides of stairways
Investing in your home environment is the best sort of planning you can do. Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists – homeowner consultants and home remodelers who have earned their CAPS designation through the National Association of Home Builders – can help you determine what renovations your house needs. Whether you have a fear of falling – like me – or are simply smart enough to prepare for the inevitable, learning more about the way your body interacts with your environment will help you plan for remaining safe at home during your lifetime.
Originally published on Plan4Aging.com