Falls are often considered part of the norm for older adults, but these incidents can have serious health consequences. For older people, falls are the top cause of injury-related death, unintentional injury and hospital trauma admissions. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling in your home and when you are out in the community.
Preventing Falls in Your Home
Your home should be a place where you feel comfortable and safe. Try the following tips to reduce your risk of falls in your living space:
- Keep floors and walkways clear. Remove pet toys, pet food and water bowls, shoes, décor and furniture that prevents you from having a clear path through each room.
- Think about your pet. Add a bell to your cat or small dog’s collar so you know when they are nearby and could run under your feet. If you have a larger dog that jumps or pulls on their leash, consider obedience training.
- Store possessions in a safe place. If you normally keep certain items on the floor, such as shoes or your purse, find a new home for them, such as a shoe rack in your closet or a hook by the door for your bag.
- Ensure your home is well-lit. Use nightlights and bright lightbulbs to make your path easy to see. Consider installing light switches at both ends of the hallway or using switches that glow so you can easily find them.
- Place frequently used items within easy reach. Having to bend over to get something out of the kitchen cabinet or reaching up high to put something away in the closet increases the chances for you to lose your balance. If you use something often, keep it within close reach.
- Update your bathroom. Wet floors and tubs can present a fall hazard. Install non-skid strips in your tub or shower floor, as well as grab bars near the toilet and in the shower.
- Secure throw rugs. Remove throw rugs that can easily slip and slide, or secure them with a rug gripper.
- Add handrails to both sides of the stairs. Be sure the rails you already have are well-secured and use them to assist you as you navigate the stairs.
- Be aware of medication side effects. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about all medications you take — prescription and over-the-counter — and ask if any have side effects that can increase your risk of falling.
- Ask for help. If you need assistance rearranging your furniture, securing hand rails, reaching items off a top shelf or moving items to a more accessible location, ask a family member, neighbor or friend for help instead of trying to do it yourself.
Preventing Falls Outside the Home
You can still enjoy being active and getting out in the community, even if you are concerned about falls. These strategies can help reduce your risk of falling:
- Consider using an assistive device. Canes or walkers can help steady your balance. Your physician, physical therapist or occupational therapist can help you choose the right one for your needs and show you how to use it properly.
- Walk on safe surfaces, such as at the mall or well-maintained parks with paved trails. Consider walking with others so you can watch out for tripping hazards together.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Watch for cracks or holes in the sidewalk, curbs in parking lots, tree roots and other uneven surfaces. Be especially cautious if there is rain, snow or ice outside.
- Use crosswalks and wait for walking signs when crossing the street.
- Wear supportive footwear with low heels and firm soles that are not slippery on the bottom.
- Watch your pet. Use both hands when holding a leash. Also, be mindful of others around you: If your dog startles someone else with balance issues, it could lead to a fall.
- Walk in well-lit places if you are outside at night.
- Wear the right glasses when you walk. If it’s bright outside, sunglasses can reduce glare and help you see better. Reading glasses and bifocals can make it more difficult to see the ground, so talk to your doctor about which glasses are best when walking outside.
- Use handrails when riding public transportation and climbing stairs.
- Take your time. Walk slowly and carefully — rushing can increase your risk of falling.
Treatment for Fall-Related injuries
If you become injured from a fall, there are excellent nonsurgical and surgical treatment options to help you recover, but the best way to deal with falls is to prevent them. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your fall risk and take steps to protect yourself at home and outside. To find a physician near you, visit pardeehospital.org.