Falls are the leading cause of disability for seniors and young adults alike. While younger adults tend to injure themselves during work activities, older adults tend to sustain injury within their own home. The culprit in most instances is a loose rug, but it may also a secured rug with frills or fringes. Falls usually happen after a trip over the raised edges of the rug, but it can also be due to an unsecured rug that easily slides. In this article, we will examine why these rugs are present, what should be done about them and lastly alternatives when the rug is a keepsake that cannot be removed.
Reasons why a rug or carpet may be present in a home
Rugs may be in one’s home for various reasons. It is important to consider why this is the case as sometimes they do add some value and protect the occupant from falls. For instance, if one resides in a home in need of repairs, a rug may act as a temporary tool to minimize falls risks. For instance, if one has a small crack or hole in the floor that may cause one to trip, it may be helpful to overlap the problem with a rug temporarily until the issue is resolved. Of course this is only a temporary fix and should never be used with any significant hole in the floor. If used on larger sized holes, this may compress the rug and result in high peaks and low troughs and could easily trip someone that walks on or near this surface. Ideally, the rug should be used as a sort of a cautionary warning of the issue underneath it as stepping on the hole may lead to a trip. If the residence is being rented, it is the responsibility of the landlord to correct this issue as soon as possible. However, if you are the owner, the repairs land in your lap. Ideally the repairs need to be done as soon as possible.
One other situation why rugs may be present in one’s home is to overlap wires that run along a commonly used pathway. Most often, electrical outlets and phone jacks are against the wall, but the device they are powering is sitting on a table in the middle of a room. In these cases, cords run across walking pathways to provide power and service to phones and other electrical devices.
However, wires increase risk of falling significantly. Wires that cross along the floor are dangerous because they often do not lie flat against the floor and can trip someone as they walk by. For this reason, a small or large rug is placed on top of the wire to minimize that risk. While this prevents the wire with interfering with one’s mobility, it is important that the purchased rug has a few key features to minimize any fall risks it may add. Some key things that rugs need include:
- No frills or fringes
- Low pile
- Grip underneath to minimize sliding
- Use of rug grippers to stop existing rugs from slipping and sliding easily on hardwood, laminate or tiled surface.
Lastly, rugs are present for no good reason at all, and have been there for as long as anyone can remember. People are creatures of habit and sometimes form sentimental attachments to loose rugs and other decorative pieces within their home. However, they fail to realize that sometimes these rugs place them at higher risk of falling, especially if they are located in frequented areas of the home.
Address loose rugs and carpeting to prevent falls in older adults
Now that we have a sense of why rugs are present in people’s homes, let’s talk about what can be done about them. If an area or throw rug is covering damaged flooring, it is important to repair the issue immediately. This will eliminate the need for the rug all together and minimize any risks associated with it.
In the next scenario where wires are running along the floor to provide electrical power or a telephone cable to connect a phone, try to rearrange the furniture. Place these devices near or against the walls and run cables along pathways that are not used for walking. Alternatively, one can purchase a cordless phone with a charging base, and keep the base near the wall for charging purchases while the cordless phone can be utilized in any part of your home. The cordless phone are also great because if you have one in your pocket and sustain a fall, chances are you will able to call for assistance. Phones that are located on tables or nightstands cannot be reached if one were to fall and sustain an injury that prevents getting up or crawling to them.
Alternative strategies to minimize risk of falls when the rug must stay
So what do you do if the rug is a decorative piece of the home or holds sentimental value and there is a strict refusal to remove it? Rearrange the furniture to maximize open spaces and keep the floors free of clutter. This will hopefully allow one more walking space and be able to avoid the rugs. For example, the rug can still be present, but it can be moved underneath the coffee table, a path that nobody is able to use for ambulation.
Ultimately, it is your choice as to what you do with the rug, so long as you make an informed decision. Beware that rugs have broken many hips and caused many deaths, but in some situations can offer some benefit. In the end, they should only be used with the utmost caution and need to be carefully placed to minimize risks of tripping.