Preventing Falls in the Home

Preventing Falls in the Home

Count to 17……………..Would you believe in the time it took you to count to that number, an older adult will be treated in a hospital emergency room for injures related to a fall? Even more stunning, in the next 30 minutes, an older adult will die from injuries sustained in a fall. In people 65 and over, falls are the leading cause of injury and are often severe: hip fractures, lacerations, head traumas and other broken bones. These injuries can make it hard to live independently and increase the risk of early death. Falls are also the most common cause of Traumatic Brain Injury; TBI accounts for 46% of fatal falls among adults.  The impact on quality of life can be significant.

As the baby boomers age, the number of falls and the cost to treat them will certainly rise. The latest numbers from the US Center for Disease Control (USCDC) indicate that the cost of injuries from falling over a one year period totaled $349 million, $160 million for men and $189 million for women.  When we look deeper into these ominous numbers, according to the USCDC, more than half of all fall-related deaths of older folks occur at home.

To that end, the University at Buffalo under a grant from the Community Health Foundation has created the Home Safety Self Assessment Tool (HSSAT) to disseminate information on how to reduce falls. It is a simple to use guide that both identifies problems and supplies solutions.  For example, the illustrated checklist for the entrance to a home’s back/side door identifies potential hazards that may cause a fall: Lack of railings, steep/cracked/chipped steps, unmarked or raised threshold, lack of lighting, lack of a wheelchair ramp, uneven pavement, ice/snow on walkway, lack of outdoor grab bar.  If an item applies to your home, you would check the box, add the number of checks and consult the solutions section. Many solutions are obvious (add a railing, repair steps, have a service for snow removal), while others are less so: Mark end of steps or thresholds with contrasting tape or paint color to increase awareness of change in height.

The Home Safety Self Assessment Tool is available for download at www.aging or to obtain a booklet, call 716-829-6740.

A host of other organizations offer free services that will assist in improving your house or apartment: Center for Assistive Technology, Erie County Department of Senior Services, Lions Blind & Charity Fund, Independence Foundation Equipment Loan Closet, Hamburg Loan Closet, Supportive Services Corporation, WNY Independent Living, Inc. If you have difficulty finding any of these organizations, you can always call the Erie County Department of Senior Services at 716-858-8526.  Make your home safer by eliminating tripping hazards, adding grab bars and railings, improving lighting in and around your home and GET RID OF THOSE LITTLE RUGS!

Estate Sales – Sell the House or the Contents First?

Like so many real estate questions that people ask me, the answer to this one is: “It depends.” In this “multi-tasking” age that we all live in the other question that naturally comes up is “Can I Do Both at the Same Time?”  The primary determining factor when there is a need to sell both the real estate and the contents is – How does the property show in its current condition and set up?  If it is quite cluttered, the obvious answer is to sell the contents first and then the real estate. If it is set up fairly well in its current condition and the furnishings are somewhat neutral, you would do much better to sell the real estate first and then run the estate sale between the time you sign the contract to sell the house and the actually closing of the transaction. You will have, in most cases, a two month window to work with.

It is quite disruptive in most cases to run a full house estate sale while a property is on the market. There will be about a two week set up period for the estate liquidator and during this time there will be great disarray as the liquidator generally needs to sort everything into piles throughout the house prior to final staging for the sale. There will also be a one to two week period after the sale where final clean up will take place and again it will look somewhat chaotic throughout and not conducive at all to the sale of the real estate. The only time it can really make sense to do this if you have a large garage or outbuilding to work with and the items you are selling do not exceed that capacity. In this instance, it can actually help you to “cross market” the two sales. People drawn to the sale of the real estate may buy from the estate sale and if you get lucky, the real estate might sell as a result of the estate sale.

Selling a house and its contents on behalf of someone else is not unlike taking on a part time job for a period of time for the individual who has been entrusted with this task. Most executors and power of attorney are close to the person they are helping and the situation is often emotionally charged as well as highly detailed. It is best throughout the process to get professional assistance at every step of the way. In many ways this is an endurance test and it is critical to pace yourself and take breaks from it as you work your way through the process. 

Michael Olear is a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker – Find him online at