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Designing for Fall Prevention


Why should home designers and design consultants consider ‘fall prevention’ factors when designing new or modifying existing space? Do you realize that ‘falls’ are considered a national health epidemic by the Center on Disease Control? Approximately one-third of all documented falls that lead to hospitalization happen in or around the home. There are 4 primary factors that are linked to falls and being aware of these factors can provide an opportunity to prevent a fall, if you take the necessary steps to prevention.

The top 4 factors that have been identified by primary care doctors, fire departments and emergency rooms are:

1) General weakness

2) Environmental causes

3) Vision

4) Medications

As a Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant,  Interior Design Consultant, and Certified Aging in Place Specialist, this is my passion and area of expertise.  The general population desires to remain in their home for as long as possible and I want to help them achieve that goal!  Unfortunately, the typical builder, contractor, architect and home designer don’t take these factors into consideration when designing for your new space. In their defense, it’s not their area of expertise. BUT this is why todays home design team should consider consulting with a health care professional who specializes in Universal, Aging in Place, and/or Accessible Design. Todays client should be given an opportunity to consult with a specialist who understands the unique needs of our aging population and the design solutions that can benefit them.

You don’t have to be ‘old’ to consider these design solutions.  They are beneficial to EVERYONE, young and old.  With the return of the Multi-Gneraltional family on the rise, there are important features that can make a home functional for everyones height, size, or ability. Even if this isn’t YOUR forever home, the thought that goes into your home design or modifications can benefit society at large and make that home more marketable to the vast majority.

Why is ‘fall prevention’ so important? It’s a matter of maintaining quality of life.  As a rehabilitation therapist I’ve seen what how a traumatic fall can change a persons life forever.  Unfortunately, most of these individuals never fully recover to their prior level of function, often deteriorate after returning home, frequently fall and are hospitalized again within 6 months. A large factor in why people deteriorate after returning home is because their homes present barriers to their independence. If a person doesn’t feel safe, fear will prevent them from mobility or completing activity’s of daily living, leading to the cycle of physical deterioration again.  The truth of “if you don’t use, it you loose it” is true, whether the task is physical or mental. Mental deterioration also happens as our independence diminishes.

Solutions for maintaining your quality of life in the ‘fall prevention’ areas are;

1) Stay strong, active, and mentally engaged

2) Have your home assessed by an Occupational/Physical Therapy professional with CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist), and make necessary modifications

3) Have your eye sight checked every year, or after a traumatic event

4) Keep your medications up to date, and reviewed for compatibility by a pharmacist