According to several recent studies, over one-third of falls at home occur in the bedroom, and most home fires originate in the bedroom. The majority of fatal fires occur while residents are sleeping.
Since the elderly spend about a third of their time in the bedroom, it is extremely important to correct bedroom safety hazards and take preventive measures to help avoid potentially life-altering disasters.
- Lighting: Provide a light which is easy to operate and within comfortable reach of bed. Install a light switch at the entrance to the room. Use nightlights, especially in the pathway from bed to bathroom. Have a working flashlight and eyeglasses at the bedside.
- Walkways: Remove all clutter, electrical cords, phone cords and protruding furniture from pathways, especially from bed to bathroom. Remove throw rugs or secure them to the floor with double-sided tape.
- Bed height: Adjust bed to normal height for safe, easy access. To minimize dizziness, sit at the edge of the bed for a minute or two before slowly standing up.
- Communication: Install a bedside telephone, and attach to it a list of emergency numbers in large print.
- Provide sturdy chair with arms for dressing and sitting activities.
- Install working smoke alarms on every level of home and immediately outside of bedroom.
- Never smoke in bed, and do not use candles. Smoking in bed is the number one cause of fire in seniors’ homes.
- Close the bedroom door when you go to bed. If there is a fire, a closed door will slow it down.
- Avoid going to sleep with a space heater operating, as this is the number two cause of fire in seniors’ homes.
Besides these environmental issues, here are other ways to help minimize your risk of falls at home:
- Stay active physically; walking for exercise is an excellent way to keep your lower extremities strong and improve balance. Your neighborhood senior center may have exercise classes for stretching, strengthening and balance. Be sure, however, to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program to be sure it is okay.
- Avoid alcohol, especially if you are taking medications.
- Keep your mind active: Doing crossword puzzles, reading, and playing cards and board games with friends are all great ways to help keep you oriented and more equipped to deal with everyday issues and emergency situations. There are even programs available for purchase which can significantly improve your memory and mental acuity, leading to greater independence and safety.