Did you know one in three seniors over the age of 65 suffer a fall each year, and that many of those accidents result in injury, disability, placement in nursing homes and even death?? This is scary stuff that requires our attention. Those ominous scenarios are being addressed by the Occupational Therapy Geriatric Group at the University at Buffalo with a new booklet: the Home Safety Self Assessment Tool (HSSAT). The HSSAT, funded by the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York, is designed to provide information on reducing the occurrence of falls at home.

The HSSAT consists of three sections:

  • A home safety self-assessment checklist
  • Home modification services
  • Other local resources

The first section lists steps on hazards that may exist in each area or room of your home. If the problem is present, you?re asked to check the appropriate box, total the numbers, review the solutions, and take the recommended action to remedy the problems. An action log is available to keep for your records. Some common examples of potential hazards include raised thresholds in the front yard, cluttered hallway areas, steep staircases, inadequate lighting in the kitchen, and incorrect placement of grab bars in the bathroom, among others.

Many solutions recommended in the booklet are practical and involve little expense: increase wattage to allowable limits in lights, remove throw rugs that could result in slip-and-falls, run extension cords behind furnishings, de-clutter rooms and areas, wear shoes and socks with non-skid soles, use a sturdy step ladder instead of a stool when reaching for items, paint the bottom of stairs a different color so that the last step is easier to see.

As one of the articles in the booklet indicates, many homes in Erie County were built prior to 1976 before the current, standardized building codes were in place. Those homes weren?t constructed for walker and wheelchair access and the frequent challenges faced by today?s older adults. It?s no surprise that the ADA guidelines may be necessary for those home modifications. Guidelines in the booklet are included to prevent falls along with diagrams for toilet grab bars, safe shower access, entry grab bar spacing, as well as wheelchair ramps and minimum turning space is clearly described.

Home Modification Service Providers in Erie County are also listed in the booklet, including names, addresses, phone numbers, web and email contact information. Each service provider is insured and has experience in residential home modification to prevent falls. These service providers have also completed Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) workshops.

Organizations that provide free services are also included in the booklet: Hamburg Loan Closet, Lions Blind & Charity Fund, Inc., Center for Assistive Technology, Erie County Senior Services Department, MDA/ALS Society Loan Closet, Maria Love Convalescent Fund, and the Independence Foundation Loan Closet.

Copies of the HSSAT booklet can be obtained by calling the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at UB, 716-829-6740. An online version is also available at www.agingresearch.buffalo.edu.