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Safety Devices for Seniors

When it comes to safety, it seems seniors everywhere are taking heed to the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Seniors are stocking up on home safety items -- particularly bath safety products -- as an important precaution. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites falls as the number-one cause for injury among older adults. In 2001, more than 1.6 million seniors were treated in emergency rooms for fall related injuries and nearly 388,000 were hospitalized. Now seniors are doing something about it.

“It is not uncommon today to find seniors and their relatives outfitting their homes with safety devices, like grab bars and all-in-one commodes before an accident happens,” says Eric Taylor, Columbine Medical Equipment, Inc. “Bath safety items like grab bars, shower benches and elevated toilet seats are actually our fastest selling products.”

Unfortunately, many seniors on fixed incomes become discouraged when they learn that bath safety items are not covered by Medicare. “We often see customers think twice about safety concerns, because they simply can not afford to buy the products,” says Christie Brown, certified rehabilitation therapist, SPC Home Medical Equipment. “What is sad is that all of the non-covered bathroom safety items are inexpensive.”

“It’s a shame that the kids running Medicare today spend too much time worried about coverage formulas and don’t use common sense. Not covering bathroom safety items might be penny-wise but it is pound-foolish,” says 78-year-old George Corral. “I want to play golf till I’m 99 so I’ll find a way to take precautions now with or without Medicare.”

With Census Bureau projections indicating that by 2030 one in five Americans will be age 65 or older, manufacturers are busy working to meet the demand. Chicago area medical manufacturer and distributor Medline Industries, Inc. has seen tremendous growth in this market. “In the past 10 years we’ve literally seen about a 1000 percent increase in our business. We’ve significantly increased our product line to meet the needs of the senior population. Now we offer everything from shower heads to grab bars to rollaters (walkers with seats),” says Dave Jacobs, president, Medline’s Durable Medical Products Division.

He also notes that seniors don’t just want institutional safety products. “Our senior customers are demanding more than just quality in home safety products. They also want style and comfort. We used to just design products from an engineering standpoint to make sure they performed. Now we include design experts in the process to ensure our products are more comfortable and more stylish for use inside and out of the home.”

Manufacturers are also making products that promote increased independence. “Medline has also gone to great lengths to make it easier for folks to use our products. Many of Medline’s bath safety products are now tool free which allows seniors to assemble and use the products without assistance from anyone else,” says Jacobs.

Mobility is another important area in which seniors should consider safety. There are literally dozens of mobility aids including canes, walkers, rollaters, transport chairs and scooters. And Jacobs adds that Boomers are looking for all these aids in sleek models with a wide range of color.

Home safety consultants recommend that seniors focus on any areas that they might be experiencing a deficit -- whether it’s an abnormal gait, impaired vision or mobility. Seniors should also take a walk through their homes and consider overall accessibility. “I ask my clients very specific questions about how they go about their daily activities and also take a look at the layout of their homes, the size of the doorways and halls, the way the furniture is placed and most importantly I take a look at their bathroom. Most falls happen in the bathroom so this is really a primary area to secure,” explains DeAnne Redder, OTR.

Maintenance is also a critical area of concern. “I’ll see seniors who have worn down the caps on their walker legs all the way to the aluminum. That is dangerous because the legs could catch on something and cause a dangerous fall,” says Taylor. “We always counsel our customers to check the protective glides on their walkers. We also urge our customers to buy shower chairs that have suction cups on the legs.”

For more information about safety devices manufactured by Medline Industries, log on to www.medline.com.


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