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Program keeps seniors on their feet
By ERICA JAHN
For senior citizens living at home, one of the biggest threats to independence is falling down.
To help keep seniors up and moving, the Federal Way Fire Department conducts free home surveys to point out hazards and help people reduce the risk of falling at home.
The program started three years ago with a $9,000 grant from Capital One, which the Fire Department used to launch the program and purchase what firefighters call risk-reduction devices, like toilet and shower rails and non-skid lining for rugs. The equipment is installed at no cost to the residents.
Capital Ones grant was augmented last October by $600 from the Wal-Mart store in Federal Way and $400 from King County Emergency Medical Services.
The program has been well-received. Fire Department spokeswoman Debbie Goetz, who conducts the home surveys, said shes booking appointments for May.
When she does a walk-through at someones home, she looks for loose rugs, clutter or other things that might cause them to trip and fall, she said.
For people age 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of death due to injury, Goetz said, adding that half of all people over 65 who fall and get hurt bad enough to be hospitalized will never live independently again.
Injuries from the fall will leave them disabled enough to have to have part or full-time living assistance, Goetz said.
Three-quarters of all falls occur in the home, and the majority happen for no good reason a person was simply walking or turning around on an even surface and tripped or stumbled, Goetz said.
During the home surveys, Goetz said, she talks to seniors about exercise, vision, safe shoes and medication combinations that might affect balance.
While shes there, she also looks for other safety issues (such as fire hazards) and risk-reducers (night lights, etc.).
She recommends seniors keep a telephone by the bed in case they need to call for help.
Safety hazards can exist in bathrooms and kitchens, where the combination of linoleum or tile floors and water could contribute to slipping. Rugs on tile or linoleum floors can shift or slip, so Goetz provides a skid-proof lining to keep them in place.
Rugs on top of rugs are another hazard she said she frequently sees.
If youre in a hurry, youre likely to catch the corner of the rug, Goetz warned.
After a walk-through, the fire department provides night lights,bathtub grab bars, shower and toilet rails, bath mats, shower chairs, handheld shower heads, carpet skid pads or bed rails to reduce the risk of falling at home.
To set up an appointment for a home survey, call Federal Way Fire at (253) 839-6234.