I wonder – does your experience match mine?
- When you climb stairs your knees wobble and cause you to lose your balance.
- If you’re climbing stairs and carrying something with both hands you may use two feet on each step.
- You fear tripping on the way up the stairs.
My osteoarthritic knees, after 79 years, have taught me a few things about Stair safety.
While there’s much more than arthritis involved in falls on stairs, there also is evidence that it is a major contributor to a serious lack of stair safety. For example, postmenopausal women with knee arthritis are at 27% greater risk of falling than women of the same age who don’t have arthritis.
No arthritic knees? How are your eyes?
You don’t have to have arthritic knees to be at serious risk of falls on stairs. One research study, reported in Investigative Ophthalmology, found that artificially blurred vision slowed healthy people climbing stairs by 11%. Their uncertainty caused the subjects to shift their balance forward and to increase the height and forward swing of each step they took.
If you’re uncertain on stairs but you don’t have knee pain on stairs, it could be time to have your eyes checked for cataracts.
Start with Health Canada’s 12 Steps to Stair Safety at Home
If you’re looking to help an elderly relative improve his or her stair safety, you can print a checklist from this Health Canada website. Most of its recommendations are easy steps to preventing falls on stairs.
- Light switch at top and bottom of stairs.
- Steps in good repair.
- All steps the same depth and height.
- Install contrasting strip of color on the edge of every step.
- Carpeting on stairs securely fastened. Or replace it with rubber stair treads.
- Handrail on at least one side of the stairway. Both sides is better. 34 to 38 inches above stairs.
- Handrail solidly attached, preferably to studs.
- No clutter on stairs.
- No loose carpets or throw rugs on landings.
- Take your time on stairs.
- Nothing – such as holding a grocery bag – blocks your vision on stairs.
- No reading glasses on stairs. If you wear Bifocals adjusts your glasses to see through the distance part of lens.
Exercise to increase your stair safety
According to an article in The Journals of Gerontology, “An inability to negotiate stairs is a marker of disability and functional decline and can be a critical factor in loss of independence in older people.”
Exercising regularly can help increase your strength and mobility and increase your stair safety.
You may not have exercised in years but the good news is that you don’t have to go to a gym to strengthen your knees, legs and ankles or to do balance exercises. A sturdy chair, your bed, a table and even your stairs are about all you need to do some basic exercises.
Seven simple exercises for knee pain
An Arthritis Research UK website shows seven simple exercises for knee pain. Regardless of whether you have arthritis, they’ll also work to improve Safety On Stairs.
This is one of the seven that you can do before you get out of bed in the morning:
The Mayo Clinic has a slide show with a number of balance exercises that you can do at home
You can find more balance exercises that may improve safety on stairs, such as walking heel to toe, at the National Institutes of Health site.
Improve your stair safety today…
Research reveals that most elders are aware of the safety hazards in their home. They just don’t intend to do anything about them until they “need to.” Don’t wait, take steps today, tomorrow and next week, using the exercise tips above, to increase your stair safety, and safety everywhere else in your home.
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In summary: A little light exercise can go along way to improving your stair safety. Start exercising today – it’s easier than you may think!