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Make Safety top of Mind When Hosting Elderly Guests

Safety Tips
The holidays can be a minefield of hazards for elderly guests who may be at risk for falls. So Lana Bernier, a physical therapist for Methodist Outpatient Therapy in Flowood, has some tips to keep everyone merry, bright and out of the ER.

You’ve done the cleaning, decorating, cooking and gift buying for the holidays.

But if elderly guests are heading to your home, there’s one more project to put on your list—fall prevention.

Lana Bernier, a physical therapist at Methodist Outpatient Therapy in Flowood, says slips and trips are the leading cause of injurious falls in people age 65 and over. And the holidays provide plenty of dangers underfoot.

“People trip over ornaments, extension cords and tree skirts, slip on wrapping paper and fall after climbing on chairs and tables to decorate,” Bernier says.

Bernier is certified competent in rehabilitation of the vestibular system, which includes organs that play a role in balance, posture, movement and spatial orientation.

She said a number of conditions make the elderly more prone to falls, from age-related changes in the inner ear to reduced flexibility of joints and tendons due to arthritis and muscle weakness.

For those prone to unsteadiness, Bernier can do a comprehensive balance assessment and create a therapy plan to address specific problems.

Meanwhile, she recommends the following strategies to make homes safer for visitors of all ages.

  • Inspect and illuminate entrances. Repair broken or wobbly steps and make sure there’s adequate lighting so visitors can see where they are stepping.

  • Reconsider throw rugs. These frequent fall hazards should be removed or equipped with double-sided tape to keep them from slipping.

  • Clear the clutter. Anything left on the floor can be tripped over, so avoid stretching electrical cords across pathways and pick up books, papers, gift boxes, shoes, etc.

  • Elevate luggage. Provide a luggage rack or another space to keep suitcases off the floor.

  • Provide easy access to essentials. Avoid putting necessary items in cabinets which might be out of reach for anyone with limited mobility.

  • Plan adequate time for activities. Rushing your guests is a recipe for distracted behavior and can lead them to be careless.

  • Add lighting. Make sure the path from the bedroom to bathroom is well-lit, as well as the area at the bottom and top of stairs. Flashlights can be offered for going outside in the dark.

  • Space out furniture. Those using wheelchairs, walkers or canes will need room to navigate around furniture.

  • Consider safety equipment. If possible, provide hand rails in stairwells and grab bars for shower stalls.

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