Physical therapist helping an elderly with Parkinson’s disease and high blood pressure to move around with a walker.

The Need for Fall Prevention Measures at Home

Just as parents “baby-proof” their homes before the arrival of a little one, households with older adults should also be “elder-proofed” to provide them with a safe and comfortable environment; and prevent falls at home.

To get started, pay a visit to the Ageing-in-Place (AIP) Studio, located at Toa Payoh Polyclinic. Resembling a small apartment, the studio offers ideas for solutions to problems that the elderly face in everyday living. It was set up by Toa Payoh Polyclinic to teach the elderly and their caregivers about making their homes safer.

“We chose to construct it at Toa Payoh Polyclinic because the facility serves a large segment of older residents,” says Dr Kee Kok Wai, a Family Physician with National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP), who had helped to develop the studio.

As the risk of falling or fall risk is high for the sick elderly, those deemed to be at risk by doctors at Toa Payoh Polyclinic are referred to the studio. There, they learn about the importance of fittings such as grab bars and slip-resistant tiles. These fittings can help to prevent or reduce the risk of falls in the elderly, a common cause of injury among seniors that can have serious health implications.

According to the Health Promotion Board (HPB), around 8,000 seniors are admitted to hospitals every year because of falls. HPB expects this number to rise as Singapore's population ages. Falls can be dangerous for an elderly person as they may result in head injuries and hip fractures.

Other exhibits at the AIP Studio make creative use of household items to improve the quality of life for seniors. “One complaint we often hear is that seniors have difficulty turning taps on and off, because of the effort needed,” says Dr Kee. The solution? A chopstick tied to the handle of a tap!

Ways to Elder-proof the Home

Most falls occur at home. Installing grab bars and rocker switches can help create a safer home and prevent fall-related injuries.

  1. Slip-resistant tiles. Slippery tiles contribute to falls. Slip-resistant tiles provide more friction and are especially important in the bathroom.
  2. Cupboard knobs. Bigger ones are easier to hold.
  3. Easy-on buttons. Some seniors have trouble moving their fingers, which makes buttoning up a shirt or blouse challenging. Replacing regular buttons with press studs can make dressing easier
  4. Night light. Walking in the dark can lead to a fall. Installing a night light by the bedside can make a late-night visit to the toilet safer.
  5. Rocker switches. These are bigger and need less effort to turn on/off.
  6. Right bed. The height of a bed is important. When an elderly person sits on the edge of the bed, their feet should be flat on the floor.
  7. Long-handled reacher. Use this to pick light objects that are too high or low to reach. “This reduces the need to stretch or bend excessively,” says Dr Kee
  8. Family photos. These help the elderly, especially those with dementia, with their recollection.

Did you know?

Under the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) scheme, the Housing and Development Board installs elderly-friendly fittings in households with seniors at a subsidised cost. Since 2012, more than 100,000 households in Singapore have applied for the scheme.

Find out more or apply online at HDB's EASE page.

For more tips, visit the Ageing-In-Place Studio at Toa Payoh Polyclinic, 2003 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh, Singapore 319260

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