My boss was in the middle of a presentation and it was all I could do to stop from cracking up.

The topic: fall prevention. A serious subject, with serious consequences, but I kept envisioning the time my young son had taken a spill in the living room while my back was turned.

The crying, the tears — enough to make me worry that he’d broken a bone. What happened? I asked as I rushed over to him. What did you hurt? Your head? Your elbow? Your knees? Where did you fall?

“The floor!” he sobbed.

I suppose he was right.

Working at a hospice agency, my team is always focused on preventing falls. Our patients are often frail, losing strength, and at risk for a fall that could result in a broken hip or leg or some other unfortunate injury. We do our best to educate our patients and their family members about how to avoid falls.

But during my boss’s presentation, I began to see parallels with trying to keep my son and daughter from suffering falls at home as well.

Footwear is important, my boss began. The patient should wear shoes that fit comfortably, or use those non-skid socks with the rubber marks on the bottom. Slippery socks or shoes that are too big or too small could contribute to a fall.

I pictured my daughter flopping around the kitchen in my wife’s slippers. I pictured my son slipping across the hardwood floor in his socks, yelping when he falls and lands on his kneecaps. Certainly there are lessons to be learned here.

Make sure walkways are clear, my boss instructed. The path from the bedroom to the bathroom should be well-lit and free of any clutter, throw rugs, or anything else that can be tripped over.

Like Legos, I thought. Or dinosaurs or puzzle pieces or cars. Or the pink doll stroller that I almost stumbled over on my way into the kitchen the other morning.

Another aspect to consider is vision impairment. Poor eyesight could prevent a patient from seeing an object in their way, especially on the periphery. A small dog running underfoot can be a hazard that’s tough to see.

Even walls might be tough to see, I thought to myself, if the person is wearing a red plastic firefighter’s hat over his or her eyes. I don’t know how many times my kids have smacked into the couch or bookcase or a wall because they had some ridiculous hat on and they couldn’t see where they were going.

Lastly, my boss said, consider that the medications a patient is taking might affect their ability to walk safety. Side effects such as dizziness or light-headedness can be problematic. Even more so if the patient is taking five or more different kinds of medications, which might have undesirable interactions.

Possibly not all that different from the interactions between cookies and juice, which give the young child a burst of energy, thereby increasing their risk of running headlong into the side of the refrigerator during some enthusiastic speeding around in the kitchen.

So although the topic of fall prevention generally makes me think of someone old and frail, these lessons could probably be applied to my kids as well.

BILL ZUCK does not allow his patients to wear oversized plastic firefighter hats. You can reach him at

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