By Dr. Murray Feingold
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Open-heart surgery and organ transplants have a great deal more pizzazz and get much more media attention than the prevention of home accidents. However, because such accidents are the cause of millions of injuries, more attention needs to be given to them.
All ages are involved in home accidents, but the incidence is greater in the elderly.
A recent study was done to determine if preventative measures could reduce the number of fall-related injuries. Two groups of individuals were studied. Approximately 60 percent were younger than age 60. The homes of one group underwent various modifications to help prevent fall-related accidents. The homes of the other group did not undergo such modifications.
The groups were then followed for an average of three years, and the percentage of fall-related injuries of both groups was determined.
Home modifications included installing outdoor and indoor handrails, improving outside lighting, fixing carpet edges to the floor, installing bathroom grab rails and non-slip bath mats and adding slip-resistant surfaces to outdoor areas and steps. The average cost of these modifications was $450. Results showed that individuals who lived in homes that underwent modifications had 26 percent fewer fall-related injuries and 39 percent fewer overall injuries that were prevented because of the modifications.
Homeowners can take other precautions that are not very costly such as using higher wattage light bulbs in the home, especially the bedroom. They should inspect the home looking for objects on the floor and elsewhere that can result in causing a fall.
Proper shoes should be worn because loose-fitting shoes, such as sandals, are associated with falls.
Poor eyesight, especially in older individuals, is also associated with an increased rate of home accidents. Yearly eye examinations can detect vision loss and the need for glasses.
Yes, reattaching a limb garners a great deal more media attention and is more interesting to read about than making certain carpet edges are firmly attached to the floor so you don’t trip on the rug.
Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.