Firefighters show most dangerous areas in home for seniors to fall

As we age, we can become vulnerable to hidden dangers inside our homes.
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As we age, our houses become more dangerous and there are obstacles we may not even realize that can cause someone to fall and end up in the emergency room.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall and every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.

Wanda Lozier and her husband Don spend a lot of time at home.

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But recently they learned the hard way that where they're most comfortable is not the safest.

"I started falling backwards. Don caught me, but I remember the bone coming out of my leg and I remember saying to Don, 'did I just break my leg?'" Wanda describes the fall that left her with a broken leg.

That serious and traumatic fall brought paramedics into their home, who actually came back to make some changes.

"We can go into a house on Friday. It may be their first fall or new illness and install grab bars within 24 hours," explains Upper Arlington firefighter, Jon Hamilton.

Through the CARES program, Upper Arlington firefighters are not only showing residents where they can fall, but Jon Hamilton says they're trying to prevent those calls.

"Their pride won't tell their doctor they're having falls. Therefore, they're not getting help. But when we come they're in a moment of crisis. We help them up, we earn their trust, then they do listen to us," he says.

Some of the most dangerous things in a home are the simple ones, like a rug or pet toys.

"Pets are wonderful to seniors and adults, they bring a lot of joy. But they can be hazardous, their toys, their balls, their beds are in the way," Hamilton says.

In a kitchen, a fall can happen just by grabbing a plate from a cupboard.

"It's amazing how many people continue to reach for something and lose their balance. So what we do is help them reorganize their kitchen, so the things they use are within reach," he says.

And in the bathroom, there are several hazards for falls, a toilet that's not the proper height or doesn't have a grab bar. Even a night light can help when a person uses the bathroom in the middle of the night.

"The shower is probably the most dangerous place. Falls are most dangerous. It's wet, it's slippery, they don't have a way to call," Hamilton explains, "People can have their blood pressure drop in the shower and they can become dizzy. This gives them a good place to hold onto."

Wanda says it's been a life-changer for her. "With those bars, I know if I get a little wobbly, I can reach out and grab and I'm safe."

It's an inexpensive and small adjustment that really can and has made a difference.

"Now those repeat calls with our new program in our city, I don't want to say they're not nonexistent, but they're almost nonexistent," Hamilton says about the results since the program started.

Since the program started, The Upper Arlington Fire Department has decreased calls for falls by 67 percent.

Not every fire department has the CARES program which provides this free service.

But Hamilton says it is important to assess your home or a family member's house and make safety changes.

Those grab bars cost less than $20.

Click here for more safety information.

To learn about the CARES program in Upper Arlington, click here.