Count to 17……………..Would you believe in the time it took you to count to that number, an older adult will be treated in a hospital emergency room for injures related to a fall? Even more stunning, in the next 30 minutes, an older adult will die from injuries sustained in a fall. In people 65 and over, falls are the leading cause of injury and are often severe: hip fractures, lacerations, head traumas and other broken bones. These injuries can make it hard to live independently and increase the risk of early death. Falls are also the most common cause of Traumatic Brain Injury; TBI accounts for 46% of fatal falls among adults.  The impact on quality of life can be significant.

As the baby boomers age, the number of falls and the cost to treat them will certainly rise. The latest numbers from the US Center for Disease Control (USCDC) indicate that the cost of injuries from falling over a one year period totaled $349 million, $160 million for men and $189 million for women.  When we look deeper into these ominous numbers, according to the USCDC, more than half of all fall-related deaths of older folks occur at home.

To that end, the University at Buffalo under a grant from the Community Health Foundation has created the Home Safety Self Assessment Tool (HSSAT) to disseminate information on how to reduce falls. It is a simple to use guide that both identifies problems and supplies solutions.  For example, the illustrated checklist for the entrance to a home’s back/side door identifies potential hazards that may cause a fall: Lack of railings, steep/cracked/chipped steps, unmarked or raised threshold, lack of lighting, lack of a wheelchair ramp, uneven pavement, ice/snow on walkway, lack of outdoor grab bar.  If an item applies to your home, you would check the box, add the number of checks and consult the solutions section. Many solutions are obvious (add a railing, repair steps, have a service for snow removal), while others are less so: Mark end of steps or thresholds with contrasting tape or paint color to increase awareness of change in height.

The Home Safety Self Assessment Tool is available for download at www.aging research.buffalo.edu or to obtain a booklet, call 716-829-6740.

A host of other organizations offer free services that will assist in improving your house or apartment: Center for Assistive Technology, Erie County Department of Senior Services, Lions Blind & Charity Fund, Independence Foundation Equipment Loan Closet, Hamburg Loan Closet, Supportive Services Corporation, WNY Independent Living, Inc. If you have difficulty finding any of these organizations, you can always call the Erie County Department of Senior Services at 716-858-8526.  Make your home safer by eliminating tripping hazards, adding grab bars and railings, improving lighting in and around your home and GET RID OF THOSE LITTLE RUGS!