Author(s): Carter SE, Campbell EM, SansonFisher RW, Redman S, Gillespie WJ
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Abstract OBJECTIVES: To investigate (i) the prevalence of environmental safety hazards in the homes of people aged 70 years and over, (ii) their knowledge of causes of injuries to older people and the safety measures they can implement to prevent such injuries and (iii) the relationship between socio-demographic characteristics of this population group and levels of home environmental hazards. METHOD: A cross-sectional survey of 425 people aged 70 years and older living in a defined geographical area of Australia. Participants were recruited through their general practitioners. A structured interview completed with each participant included questions on demographics and home safety issues. A home safety inspection was also undertaken using a predetermined rating format. RESULTS: 80\% (n = 342) of homes inspected had at least one hazard and 39\% (n = 164) had > 5 hazards. The bathroom was identified as the most hazardous room, with 66\% (n = 279) of bathrooms having at least one hazard. Hazards relating to floor surfaces (62\% of homes had one 'flooring' hazard) and absence of appropriate grab or handrails (60\% of homes had one or more hazards relating to this) were prevalent. Eighty-eight percent (n = 374) of older people were able to identify falls as the most common cause of injury and 87\% (n = 368) were able to accurately name at least one safety measure. Although a significant association was found between the older people's self-assessment of their home's safety and the presence of more than 5 hazards, 30\% of those rating their homes as very safe (n = 289) had more than 5 hazards. Logistic regression analysis identified one variable--contact with healthcare service providers--as predictive of the hazard level in older people's homes. Older people who were never visited by service providers were twice as likely to have more than 5 hazards as those who were visited weekly or more often (OR 2.12, 95\% CI 1.104, 4.088). CONCLUSION: Many older people are living in potentially hazardous environments. As yet, a causal link between the presence of environmental hazards and falls in older people has not been established. More definitive work in this area needs to be carried out.
This article was published in Age Ageing
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research