Most of us have this fall hazard in our homes and probably never think about the dangers it may cause. This fall hazard is in most living rooms throughout the country. Have you figured it out yet? It is our coffee tables, the worst fall hazard other than stairs and throw rugs.
So why is a coffee table hazardous? I want to offer you 3 reasons why you should remove your coffee table…
Bending Forward is Not Good MovementWhen you are sitting on a couch, and bending to place something onto a coffee table, your center of gravity shifts. For most in their youth and middle age, we have the ability to manage this gravity shift and keep upright. Many times, as we age, our reflexes, and our ability to notice as gravity takes affect is often decreased. A simple motion of moving forward with arm stretched out to place something on a coffee table may put a loved on at risk. One can fall forward into the coffee table, even though they are seated.
Decreased Peripheral VisionThe second reason they become dangerous, is due to vision issues. As we age, our peripheral vision often narrows. A coffee table is very low and for many people may not been seen until it is too late. As our sense of where our body is diminishes, we may think we have walked past the coffee table, when in fact, we are walking into it. You don’t have to have low vision to notice this change in your vision.
Breaking the 3 Foot RuleThe third reason coffee tables can be hazard has to do with the space around them. For aging in place, it is recommended all furniture have 3 feet of clearance. A coffee table is often placed 2 feet or closer to a couch or other seating. This is too narrow of space for a walker or wheelchair to move past. Often those with a walker, can be seen leaving their walker at the edge of the coffee table. Then they walk to their seating spot on the couch. Walking without the walker for this distance can put someone at a fall risk.
Having the Conversation with Your Parents?I was just speaking to an acquaintance online – she was trying to convince her mother to get rid of the coffee table. But she was losing the argument. Here are a couple of strategies you can consider when having a conversation with your parent about safety concerns such as a coffee table.
1. Take a Photo – if they want to keep it for sentimental reasons, take a photo. Perhaps even take a family photo around the coffee table. Place the photo on an end table near where your loved one sits.
2. Move it to the Middle of the Room – if the living room is large enough, put it in the center of a room. There should be at least 3 feet around on all sides. This way the doily and flowers can still sit there, but it isn’t within reaching distance. It also leaves enough room around other furniture.
3. Gift it Where They Can Visit – if there is a friend or family member that can take the beloved piece of furniture, then it may be the best of both worlds. Your parent can still visit this furniture piece, but it is out of their living room. But what if they ask you to take it – then take it. If they are giving you reason to remove it, remove it. Put it in a basement, put it in storage, but get it out of their home if they give you the opportunity!
4. Sometimes You Need a Professional – when I conduct an Age in Place Consultation – we talk about the coffee table if it is a hazard. If you are having a tough time having the conversation with your loved one, then maybe bring in someone else. It can be a home care nurse, physiotherapist or doctor. The point is, sometimes we are too emotionally close to our parents to have these tough conversations. My Age in Place Consultations are a perfect way to start safety conversations.
Whether you remove your coffee table now, or wait a little longer – the choice is yours. Having the knowledge will help you know when it is time to remove your coffee table, or at least have the conversation with your parents about removing theirs.