Safe Steps for Aging in Place


Safe StepsStaying accident free is a matter of taking “Safe Steps,” literally and figuratively. Start by Assessing your home for barriers to safety, because each of us are accustomed to our own environment, it becomes easy to overlook the obvious. Ask a home health professional for their opinion and assessment. Does anyone in the home have a history of Falls, if so the chance of having a second fall dramatically increases. Most home accidents happen in the bedroom and bathroom, so start your safety review there. Evaluate if anyone in the home has a processing or memory deficit. If so and especially if the individual lives alone careful analysis is paramount to maintaining safety.

Trust and rapport is essential here since the individual may not understand the why of needed changes and offer push back, reinforcement will be needed. Search the home and determine if there are poorly lit areas, then consider installing additional lighting. Also obtain motion detector night lights which will illuminate the path or area when walking early morning, late at night and in particularly when getting up during the night. Train those you love to look for trip hazards, a favorite rug is dangerous when
walking with a shuffle, or navigating a walker or cane.

Beach WalkingEncourage input from primarily care physicians (PCP) regarding any concerns that they may have. Ask for their candid opinion about a person’s ability to live alone or even with a partner without the benefit of outside professional assistance.

Does the doctor have concerns about a memory deficit or following instructions? Ask about continued driving, is a personal alarm indicated? An alarm can be helpful but only if the person recognizes what to do with it. Polypharmacy is definitely a contributor to falls and injuries. Ask your doctor if there are any medications that you can safely stop taking. Make your PCP aware of any other physician that you may be seeing and also keep the PCP informed about drugs added by that second doctor.

Your doctor won’t be aware unless you tell them so keep your written medication profile updated and take it to each medical appointment. Secure all loose rails in the home, take up throw rugs, and install grab bars in the bath and shower areas. Following these simple safe steps moves you closer to an accident free home.
–Sandra Lee Buxton
RN BSN MA LHRM is the Chief Nursing Officer at
McKenney Homecare


ambulanceThe term “age in place” isn’t just about remodeling a home. It has become a term for development as well – it’s all about being active, your lifestyle and the laws of physics – a body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest stays at rest. That’s why there is such a trend in nature trails, hiking trails communities being built around these active pursuits. Increased outdoor activity can include gathering around a fire pit or a back porch for a glass of wine with friends and family.

Another place for aging in place is showing up in eateries – even in assisted living communities, they don’t feel like cafeterias, but more like bistros. Youthful resort style living is expressing itself.

Nowhere is this gaining ground more than in the home where so many falls happen – but they don’t have to. There are several things a homeowner can do, including remaining on one floor and if that’s not possible, installing an elevator. Making bathrooms wider for wheelchairs and installing larger tubs with rails and openings to step through rather than step over help the aging live better lives. And those antiquated ADA type fixtures?

Now they are nicer, not institutional. And a host of alarm systems are available if someone does fall, they can reach for a button or switch as opposed to a telephone landline. There are even warning systems for falling.

But the first step is to consult a professional and be sure to ask if that person has experience designing these types of alterations. Homeowners looking for aging in the home solutions might wonder: which comes first, a builder, designer or architect. The architect approaches the project from a practical layout perspective.

He and the builder and designer all work together.
–Todd Gates


The North Naples Fire Control & Rescue District provides services to over 100,000 residents covering 70 sq. miles. This amount escalates to a population of over 300,000 during day time hours and weekends.

During 2013, the District responded to over 13,743 Emergency 911 calls. Approximately 8,650 of the calls were medical in nature for which 15 percent were due to falls. This year (first 8 months), the District has already responded to 9,792 Emergency 911 calls.

Around 6,221 of the calls were medical in nature for which 16 percent were due to falls.

Unfortunately, the number of falls has been on a constant rise with more citizens suffering serious and debilitating injuries due to these falls. Sadly, emergency services throughout the State of Florida are also seeing the rising statistics. Even more troubling, statistics show that 60 percent of falls are occurring in residential homes considered by most as a safe haven. Statistics show that 30 percent are occurring in commercial areas, roadways, parking lot environments and the remaining 10 percent in Senior
Living locations.

As a result of the increase in falls, in 2012, the North Naples Fire Department’s EMS Council revamped the Collier County Injury Prevention Coalition focusing on preventing falls specifically targeting the elderly population. The campaign began by assembling community stakeholders to spread awareness, discuss, plan, implement educational programs, and provide free screenings.

Additionally, Firefighters and Paramedics are committed and focused on the challenges presented to fall victims thus ensuring they receive the appropriate level and quality care they deserve. Furthermore, Firefighters and Paramedics are going beyond the call of duty by taking an extra step identifying any possible dangers existing in the fall victim’s environment in order to prevent future falls.

The North Naples Fire Department is very motivated and excited with the current efforts and the future direction of the Collier County Injury Prevention Coalition. –Deputy Chief Jorge Aguilera
Sandra Lee Buxton is the Chief Nursing Officer for McKenney Home Care. She
is available for consultation by emailing or calling
325-2273. Todd Gates is well versed in residential and commercial construction
which includes aging in place construction. Reach him online at
or by calling 239.593.3777. For more information about the North Naples Fire
Department, visit

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