7 Steps to Reduce Falls for the Elderly Plus More
Why Reducing Falls Among the Elderly is Important
Although falls may occur for every segment of the population, many such accidents can be prevented for everyone, including older individuals. A fall is best thought of as an unexpected change in body motion, loss of balance, or encountering an obstacle in a path of movement which results in a person landing on a floor or the ground. Falls are not a general consequence of growing older, but these incidents can be debilitating for seniors. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports people who experience one fall have twice the risk of another.
Approximately 35% of adults over 65 fall at least once each year. Many older individuals may never regain their independence and endure serious health issues afterwards. Falls are the leading cause of injuries among this growing population. About one in ten seniors will experience a fractured bone or other minor injuries, but some may die from these accidents. As a counselor, I’ve worked with older individuals on reducing fall risks in their environment. Many of the below suggestions benefit individuals with reduced vision, balance problems, or have loss some hearing as well. In essence, the below tips will benefit older adults, but everyone benefits from minimizing fall risks.
Have you or any older individual you know experienced injuries due to a fall?
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Fall Risks at Home
When considering the possibility of a fall occurring, there are several important steps you can take as preventive measures. Primarily, conduct a complete evaluation of your living space. As you examine the lay-out of your home, make sure clothes, books, and pillows are not scattered around the floors. In addition, clear walking paths between the kitchen, bathrooms, and other frequently used places. In essence, keep furniture and any obstacle which could cause a fall out of your indoor routes to these locations. Below I’ve provided more steps you can take to reduce fall risks.
1. Improve Lighting Inside your Home
In the daytime, you may want to open windows to let sunlight brighten darker areas of your home. At night, keep a flashlight in an easy to reach location. You may want to use a night light to light up hallways or bathrooms.
2. Avoid using Throw Rugs and Repair Loose Carpet
Check your house for loose carpet edges. These areas can cause you to trip. Repair these rough spaces in the carpet for safety. Likewise, throw rugs are dangerous because they may shift position when stepped on. Use double-sided pate to keep them from moving or remove them from your house.
3. Add Grab-Bars to Areas in your Home
Adding a grab-bar to the shower or tub can greatly help a person with maintaining balance. Bathrooms can have slippery floors, and these sturdy aids provide support. You may also wish to put one near your toilet. This will help you safely shift your weight and move around the bathroom. A grab-bar also has the added benefit of being there if you should begin to fall so you can hold on to something sturdy. Installing these aids is relatively inexpensive.
4. Evaluate and Clean Clutter from Outside Areas
Put away tools or seldom needed items in your yard. Move sticks or branches out of walking areas. Fix or replace any broken or shaky steps. Add handrails on indoor and outdoor stairs. Add outdoor lighting to brighten dark spaces.
5. Wear Appropriate Shoes
Sandals may not provide enough support for your feet. Shoes protecting the entire foot may be more appropriate. Areas of the foot such as toes are protected from bruising or injury when the whole foot is covered. In addition, some shoes may grip the floor better, preventing a fall. Consult with your physician if you may require specialized shoes for regular use,
6. Use a Cane or Walker for Mobility
Canes can help you stabilize your body as you move. They can also provide support when you feel yourself loosing balance. Canes can push obstacles out of your way, too. Likewise, walkers provide even more support and stability as you move. Although canes and walkers may be purchased without a physician’s recommendation, consulting with your medical doctor may prove beneficial when discussing fall risk and obtaining these mobility aids.
7. Exercise Regularly
Engaging in exercise can keep your muscles strong enough for maintaining balance when encountering a sudden change which could cause a fall. Leg Exercises allows you to increase your strength and gives you flexibility. Low-impact workouts, such as walking or Tai Chi, will enhance your sense of balance and improve awareness of body positioning. Swimming is also a great exercise for these reasons. Standing on one leg while holding onto a chair (if possible), increases stability in time. Also, you may want to try standing on one foot while performing simple tasks like brushing your teeth. Even performing household tasks, such as sweeping the floor or using the vacuum cleaner, can contribute to your overall physical health and ability to avoid falling.
Have you ever performed an evaluation of indoor and outdoor spaces around your home to eliminate fall risks?
Understanding How Medications May Increase Fall Risks
Without question, another contributing factor to falls is inadequate understanding of how medications can affect the body. Over-the-counter drugs as well as prescribed medications for certain conditions can have substantial side-effects like dizziness. Other medications can cause drowsiness or impact awareness. Be sure to learn about the various side-effects of any medications you are taking from your pharmacist or doctor. Below I’ve provided some general categories of medications which you may wish to stop using or lower the dosage to lessen your fall risks after speaking with your doctor.
Types of Medications which Can Increase Fall Risks
- Sleep Medications
- Drugs for Urination
- Pain relievers
- Medications that lower blood pressure
- Muscle Relaxants
- Psychoactive medications
- Drugs for lowering blood sugar levels
Check For Safety A Home Fall Prevention Checklist For Older Adults. Retrieved March 27, 2019, from: https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/STEADI-Brochure-CheckForSafety-508.pdf
Tips To Prevent Slips and Falls in Your Home - WebMD. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from: https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/prevent-slips-falls#1
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.