Staying Upright and Safe
No one likes to think about falling but it can happen to anyone. Maybe you fell on snow or ice, or perhaps you got your foot caught when stepping on the rug in your bathroom. Regardless of the reason, falls can be dangerous. The potential for injury is a real worry, as well as how will you take care of yourself if that happens.
Here are some very statistics about falls:
- Each year, one in four adults ages 65 and older falls, according to the CDC.
- According to a National Hospital Discharge Survey, more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling. Three-quarters of all hip fractures occur in women.
- Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
- According to the National Council on Aging, the financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages.
7 Helpful Tips to Prevent Falls
1.) Make an appointment with your healthcare provider
Start by making an appointment with your healthcare provider. To assess your risk and discuss fall prevention strategies, your healthcare provider may want to talk about the following:
- Your medications–Make a list of your prescriptions, nonprescription medications, and supplements or bring them with you to the appointment. Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling. To help with fall prevention, your doctor may consider weaning you off medications that make you tired or affect your thinking.
- Previous falls–Write down the details, including when, where, and how you fell. Be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall prevention strategies.
- Your health conditions–Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falling. Be prepared to discuss your health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk. Do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, shortness of breath, or numbness in your feet and legs when you walk? Your doctor may evaluate your muscle strength, balance, and walking style or gait as well.
2.) Keep moving
Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. With your doctor’s approval, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi which is a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful dance-like movements. These activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.
If you avoid physical activity because you’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, tell your doctor. Your provider may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or refer you to a physical therapist. The physical therapist can create a custom exercise program aimed at improving your balance, flexibility, and muscle strength.
3.) Wear sensible shoes and clothing
Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble, and fall. Instead, wear properly fitting, sturdy, flat shoes with nonskid soles. Sensible shoes may also reduce joint pain. You can purchase nonslip socks that have grips on the soles of the feet as well.
You want to feel comfortable at home, but oversized clothes can sometimes make you more likely to fall. Choose better-fitting and properly hemmed clothing that doesn’t bunch up or drag on the ground.
4.) Remove home hazards
Look around your home for potential fall hazards. To make your home safer:
- Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords, and phone cords from walkways.
- Move coffee tables, magazine racks, and plants from high-traffic areas.
- Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks, or a slip-resistant backing — or remove loose rugs from your home.
- Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting right away.
- Store clothing, dishes, food, and other necessities within easy reach.
- Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease, or food.
- Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower. Use a bath seat, which allows you to sit while showering.
5.) Light up your living space
Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Also:
- Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.
- Place a lamp within reach of your bed in case you need to get up in the middle of the night.
- Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances. Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
- Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
- Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.
6.) Join a preventive exercise program.
Many community centers, gyms, and health systems offer exercise programs for older adults designed for preventing falls. These exercise regimens focus on improving balance and strengthening muscles. A physical therapist can also recommend exercise programs and assistive devices, if necessary, to keep you safe.
7.) Use assistive devices
Your healthcare provider might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices can help, too. For example:
- Handrails for both sides of stairways
- Nonslip treads for bare-wood steps
- A raised toilet seat or one with armrests
- Grab bars for the shower or tub
- A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub — plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down
Making your home fall-proof
Even with precautions like handrails, stairs can present a significant falling hazard. If possible, live on one level. Otherwise, be extra careful when you negotiate stairs. If it’s not possible to live on one level, try to limit the trips you take up and down the stairs.
If necessary, ask your healthcare provider for a referral to an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist can help you brainstorm other fall prevention strategies. Some solutions are easily installed and relatively inexpensive. Others may require professional help or a larger investment.
Now let’s look at each area in the home so you can begin with some easy fixes to prevent falls.
Floors, stairways, and hallways
- Ensure there are handrails on both sides of any stairs, and make sure they are secure. Hold the handrails when you go up or down stairs, even when you are carrying something. Don’t let anything you’re carrying block your view of the steps.
- Ensure there is good lighting with light switches at the top and bottom of stairs and on each end of a long hall. Consider using motion-activated lights that plug into electrical outlets and automatically turn on when you walk by them to help illuminate stairwells and pathways.
- Keep areas where you walk tidy. Don’t leave anything on the floor or stairs.
- Check that all carpets are fixed firmly to the floor, so they won’t slip. Put non-slip strips, which you can buy at any hardware store, on tile and wooden floors.
- Don’t use throw rugs or small area rugs.
- Don’t walk on slippery, newly washed floors.
- Mount grab bars near toilets and on both the inside and outside of your tub and shower.
- Place nonskid mats, strips, or carpet on all surfaces that may get wet.
- Remember to leave a light on in the bathroom at night or use a night light that turns on automatically in the dark.
- Put night lights and light switches close to your bed.
- Keep a flashlight by your bed in case the power goes out and you need to get up.
- Place a landline or well-charged phone near your bed.
- Keep frequently used pots, pans, and kitchen utensils in a place where they are easy to reach.
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Prepare food while seated to prevent fatigue or loss of balance.
- If you have steps leading to your front door, make sure they are not broken or uneven.
- Add non‐slip material to outdoor stairways.
- Keep the lawn, deck, or porch areas clear of debris.
- Consider installing a grab bar near the front door to provide balance while you are locking or unlocking the door.
- Turn on your porch light at night and if you leave during the day but plan on returning home after dark.
- In the winter, treat outdoor walkways with an ice melt product or sand to make them less slippery.
Other living areas
- Keep electrical cords near walls and away from walking paths.
- Arrange your furniture and other objects so they are not in your way when you walk.
- Make sure your sofas and chairs are the right height for you to get in and out of easily.
- Keep items you use often at waist level or within easy reach.
- Don’t stand on a chair or table to reach something that’s too high — use a “reach stick” instead or ask for help. Reach sticks are special grabbing tools that you can buy at many hardware or medical-supply stores.
- Don’t let your cat or dog trip you. Know where your pet is whenever you’re standing or walking.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers in large print near each landline phone and save them under “favorites” on your mobile phone.
If you’re concerned about falling, set up systems to ensure you can get help if you fall. One option is installing an emergency response system. If you fall or need emergency help, you push a button on a special necklace or bracelet to alert 911. There is a fee for this service, and it’s usually not covered by insurance.
Another option is to carry a well-charged cordless or mobile phone with you as you move throughout the house. Have close friends and family on speed dial. Consider setting up a smart home device (a small speaker that listens and responds to commands when you call its name) that can quickly connect you to contacts or emergency response teams. Some watches can be set up to make emergency calls at the push of a button and others can even detect sudden fall-like movements and automatically call for help. Ask family and friends for help setting up these tools.
For older adults, fall prevention means injury prevention. Senior living communities, like The Ohio Masonic Communities, work closely with their residents to make sure that all safety precautions are made to ensure falls are prevented.
For more great tips on preventing falls, The Ohio Masonic Communities is your go to resource. With three locations in Springfield, Waterville, and Medina, OH, their senior living communities offer 24/7 care and support for independent living, assisted living, and memory care. If you and your loved one are interested in senior living, schedule a tour at one of the scenic and beautiful communities. Call (877) 881-1623 today to learn more about their great senior living options.