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Assessing Fall Hazards in Your Home and Why You'll Need File of Life

January 04, 2022

Falls are the No. 1 reason for EMS (Emergency Medical Services) calls and visits to the Emergency Department, but they can be prevented easily. “Be aware of uneven sidewalks, curves, and potential obstacles when walking in the community,” said Chayelle McKay, nurse and Trauma Program Manager at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. “Make repairs where possible on your property, especially near entrances and exits to your home.” It's important to make sure that your home – both the outside and the inside – are free of any potential fall hazards. Here are some tips from the St. Vincent’s Medical Center Department of Trauma and Injury Prevention Team:

  • Keep your landscaping trimmed for safety and clear of debris.
  • Have a plan for clearing weeds, snow and ice.
  • Make sure to have good lighting in the entry area of your home. Keep extra light bulbs on hand.
  • Don't leave cords scattered on the floor.
  • In rooms where the flooring changes, add a transition strip to keep the flooring secure.
  • Rearrange cabinets so that the items you use most often are easily accessible.
  • Replace cloth rugs with rugs and mats designed with a non-skid backing.
  • Keep stairways clear and be sure your railings are secure.
  • Wear proper footwear around the house. Avoid floppy slippers and choose something secure to your foot with a non-skid sole.
Bathrooms are often the smallest and most slippery spaces in homes. With 80 percent of falls happening in the bathroom, make sure to spend extra time fall-proofing this room. “Don’t leave wet towels on the floor and clean up the water around the shower,” said Terence Sheehan, EMS and Injury Prevention Coordinator at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. “Choose an absorbent, non-skid mat to keep near your shower or bath and keep floors clear by hanging up your towel.  Inside the shower, surfaces are slick whether wet or dry. Install grab bars near your shower and toilet for easy access. You can get these at home improvement stores.” While you are securing your home for any fall hazards, make sure that each level of your home has a working smoke detector, especially in sleeping areas. Batteries should be replaced every six months. If you ever need to call 911, a File of Life document will help EMS providers. “EMS providers are trained to look for this very important paper on your fridge,” said Sheehan. “It's a list of your emergency contacts, your medical history, medications you take and any allergies you have. This is critical information for us to have to take good care of you, especially in an emergency if you can't communicate with us.” You can ask your local senior center, fire department or EMS agency for a copy or you can download it here.