How to prevent slip and fall accidents

Kathy Jurgens’s 77-year-old dad fell when he tripped over the phone cord. Turns out, Jurgens’s brother had moved the phone away from the wall to fix the air-conditioning and didn’t put it back in the same place. Luckily, her dad, who lives in Houston, about three hours from her, wasn’t seriously hurt. But now the family never moves anything without asking Dad first. Says Jurgens, :”I realize now that if you change anything, you can be in real trouble.”

As many as 12,800 seniors die each year as a result of a fall. Dizziness or weak muscles caused by certain health conditions are sometimes to blame, so check with your parent’s doctor. But there’s plenty you can do to help prevent everyday mishaps. Start by following Kathy Jurgens’s advice to keep things in their place. Then by the following:

  • Make sure there’s a secure banister on both sides of all stairways. That way, if your dad has weakness in one hand or on one side of his body, he’ll be able to support himself with his strong side when going up or down the stairs.

  • Install grab bars in the bath and shower. Make sure the one you pick says “meets ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Guidelines” on the package. That’s your guarantee that with proper installation, the bar can hold the weight of an adult. And never use towel racks as a substitute–they’re not designed to hold anything heavy.

Try the Moen Decorator (shown) and Kingsley series. They’re sturdy, available in an assortment of sizes, and more attractive than traditional grab bars.

  • Take out the plastic mat in the tub. When these mats lose their suction, they can slide around and cause a fall. Instead, use adhesive safety strips on the bottom of the tub or shower floor. Try Home Care by Moen Decorative Tread Strips.
  • Outside the tub, use a nylon floor mat with nonskid backing. Skip the 100 percent cotton mats. They slide easily, get heavy when wet, and are harder to keep clean.
  • Consider replacing any plush wall-to-wall carpeting. Thick carpeting can become a tripping hazard for some older people. Flat, tightly woven carpet is safer.
  • Remove throw rugs. These are a common cause of falls because they can bunch up and slide around.