UB researchers stalk a preventable killer

photo of man on stairs.

UB researchers have developed the Home Safety Self-Assessment Tool (HSSAT) which offers information on how to prevent falls in those 65 years of age and older

Their goal: stop falls that injure millions and kill seniors at a rate of 20,000+ a year

Release Date: July 24, 2013 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. – One in eight adults ages 65 and older suffer falls every year, and since more than 40 million seniors who are aging are in their own homes, many of these accidents occur there.

Even among seniors who are relatively healthy and agile, falling is the most common cause of traumatic brain injury and the leading cause of injury death. More than half the falls suffered by seniors are not reported, but even at that, more than 2.3 million nonfatal-fall injuries in seniors are treated in emergency departments every year and more than 660,000 result in hospitalization. The cost is upwards of $30 billion a year.

To help prevent such accidents, UB  researchers and occupational therapists have created and are disseminating the Home Safety Self-Assessment Tool (HSSAT), which offers specific information about ways to prevent falls among individuals 65 years of age and older.

The tool also cites helpful safety devices and products, and offers the names and numbers of Western New York businesses and free services prepared to help with structural and equipment issues. These resource lists can be adapted easily to any locale.

An article describing HSSAT, titled “Occupational Therapy Community Practice and Home Assessments: Use of the Home Safety Self-Assessment Tool (HSSAT) to Support Aging in Place,” was published in the July 13 issue of the journal Occupational Therapy in Health Care.

The HSSAT is available on several senior health-related websites, among them the aging research site at UB: http://agingresearch.buffalo.edu/hssat/hssat_ v3.pdf

It consists of seven sections:

  • The home safety self-assessment checklist, which assists the user in finding and correcting hazards that could provoke tripping or falling. These can include clutter on floor and counter surfaces, unsafe carpets, problematic bed or toilet height, inadequate lighting, steep and/or dark stairwells, dangerous footwear, an absence of banisters and grab bars, and problematic cupboards and closets.
  • Assistive devices and helpful products that can prevent falls. These include bathtub grab bars, carpet trims and tape, security gates, nonslip socks and safe shoes, three-step ladders, furniture risers, cord and cable covers, motion-sensing LED lights, big-button remote-control devices, bath grab bars, a water alarm with  temperature monitor, fall-detection system, stair treads, walk-in tubs and many more.
  • A list of home-modification service providers in Erie County that perform such home modifications as installing grab bars or railings or widening the doorway to a bathroom. These providers are insured, have experience in home modification and remodeling, and are willing to perform even a small job in the home. Phone numbers are listed, as well as email addresses and websites if available.
  • A list of other local resources that provide free services related to home modification, including the Center for Assistive Technology, Erie County Department of Senior Services, Lions Blind and Charity Fund, Independent Foundation Loan Closet, Hamburg Loan Closet (American Red Cross), the Muscular Dystrophy of WNY Loan Closet, People Inc. Senior Services, Supportive Services Corporation, and legal services that can help seniors get assistance and used, low-cost equipment.
  • Tips for fall prevention
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) instructions for home environment
  • An action log to help keep track of the house hazard-removal processes

The HSSAT was developed by the Occupational Therapy Geriatric Group in the UB Department of Rehabilitation Science, School of Public Health and Health Professions.

Members of the group are Susan Nochajski, director of the UB Occupational Therapy Program; Jo Schweitzer, director of occupational therapy clinical education; Machiko R. Tomita, director of aging and technology research; and Sheela Rajendran, a graduate occupational therapy student.

The authors of the journal report are Nochajski, Schweitzer and Beverly Horowitz of York College, City University of New York.

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