Fall safety knows no age

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

You’re never too young to think about fall prevention—just ask Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon. The funny man nearly lost his finger in June when he tripped on a braided rug, injuring his hand on a countertop.

“I don’t think people realize you don’t have to be 80 years old to fall out of a bathtub,” said Frances Sheehy, president of St. Paul, Minn.-based Liberty Oxygen and Medical Equipment.

However, there’s no denying that the risk of falling increases with age. One in three people 65 years or older take a spill each year, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

To reduce the risk of falls in assisted living facilities, providers like Bob Miniccuci offer safety assessments.

“In the nursing home setting or facilities, a big part of fall prevention is being able to move people safely from the bed to the wheelchair,” said Miniccuci, president of Health System Services (HSS) in Niagara Falls, N.Y. 

To that end, HSS inspects slings and lifts to see if they’re frayed or worn. 

“We’ll test the equipment, make adjustments if adjustments are needed, pull the machine out if it needs to be repaired, give them a replacement and go from there,” he said.  

Since six out of every 10 falls happen in the home, according to the NIH, many providers train their staff to identify safety hazards when visiting patients. 

“Our delivery staff does a basic home assessment where they let individuals know about potential risks for falls,” said Sheehy. 

What should they be looking for? Clear pathways, ample lighting, the absence of throw rugs, non-slip treads on steps, and grab bars and bath mats in the bathroom, say providers.

When it comes to fall safety products, Mike Kuller, owner of Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Allstar Medical Supply, says walkers are the most popular. 

“It keeps them from falling if they lose their balance,” he said. “Many people resist using a walker because it makes them appear old or infirm. They have to take a bad fall before they’re willing to use one.”