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Foggy Bottom West End Village

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Staying vertical

Published on 4/28/2014
Tori Goldhammer is a local occupational therapist who specializes in home modifications to increase home accessibility, to improve participation in functional tasks, and to decrease fall risks. FBWE Village Executuive Director Bob McDonald worked with her at Dupont Circle Village and has consulted with her on programs and services for our members. She works with Johns Hopkins University on a project regarding falls by people with glaucoma. In February, she conducted free home assessments for three of our Villagers. Here are some of her tips for modifications to reduce your risk of falling.

As an occupational therapist, I assess many homes for accessibility and fall prevention. Recently I began a project with Johns Hopkins University which entails assessing homes with regards to fall prevention. Through both experiences I have found several common areas in the home that can pose a fall risk but are easy to correct.

Rugs. These are always a dilemma and I am often asked if the rug should be removed. The answer depends on the people who are living in the home. If anyone in the home is “shuffling” when they walk or using a walker or wheelchair, the rugs should definitely be removed. However, if there is no problem with walking, the rugs are generally okay on the floor provided they are well secured. I have found a rug underlay that firmly secures a rug to the floor or carpet without damage. It is called “Teebaud” and can be found at In addition to securing the whole rug, ensure the corners are secure. If the underlay doesn’t secure the corners, they can sometimes be managed with tape. It is important with any method of securing rugs that the tape and/or underlay are checked regularly to ensure proper condition.

Bathroom flooring. In addition to a “non-slip” method inside a shower or tub, it is important to have a non-slip rug or mat outside the tub/shower. Most bath rugs are sold with a latex or “rubberized” back. These bath rugs should be put down during showering and removed when finished to avoid tripping. These rugs can be found anywhere that bath décor is sold or online.

Nightlights. These are important for nighttime trips to the bathroom. It is recommended to have them on the path to the bathroom from the bedroom and in the bathroom. Often “motion sensor LED” nightlights work well. These can be found in any hardware store or online.

Lamps. Many homes do not have overhead lights with switches in the bedroom and living room. Lamps are often used instead. To avoid walking in the dark to turn on the lamp, use a remote control system. There are several models available on Amazon and the prices range from $19-$40 depending on how many remotes and lamps you choose to use. These remotes might also be available at a hardware or lighting store.

Step stools. The best step stool model is one with wide, non-skid, treads and a handle. These often fold up to less than 3 inches. They can be found in most hardware stores or online. Ace Hardware has the “Cosco Two Step Big Step Stool” for $26.99.

Office chairs. To avoid the chair rolling out from under you while you are getting in and out, push the back against the desk or wall. This is a simple, no cost solution to a common problem.

Grab bars. Grab bars are an essential fall prevention method. There are two lines of “designer” grab bars that will avoid an “institutional” look. One is by Moen and the other is Invisia by Healthcraft. Please contact the Village for referrals of contractors who can install grab bars, as proper installation is essential for safety.

Dual handrails. Having a second hand rail on a stair case, both interior and exterior, is another essential fall prevention item. Again, ask for a referral from the Village for a contractor to install these rails.

Fall prevention is multi-factorial and needs to be individualized if a person is having a problem. However, the recommendations discussed above can help provide increased safety in anyone’s home.

For more information, contact Tori Goldhammer at Living at Home Consultations, LLC.

:: Foggy Bottom West End Village: 
2430 K Street, NW : Washington, DC 20037 : 202-333-1327 ::