Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
We can never predict the future, but we can be proactive about the steps to ensure a safe home environment and lifestyle. One of the most common causes of non-fatal injuries and hospital visits for trauma are falls. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce risk and prevent falling.
Addressing the Myths vs. the Reality about Falls
According to the National Council on Aging, there are three common myths about falling:
Myth 1: Other people fall, but I won’t fall.
Reality: One-quarter of seniors fall every year in the U.S. The belief that “it won’t happen to me” is dangerous, because it can happen to anyone. The good news: there are actions you can take to prevent falls. For example, wearing appropriate shoes or keeping throw rugs and other tripping hazards out of your path, are among the ways you can prevent yourself and your older loved ones from falling. You can find a full list of fall prevention ideas here.
Myth 2: As I age, falling is normal.
Reality: Falling has everything to do with safety precautions and nothing to do with your age. From wearing the proper footwear, to improving strength and balance through exercise, to having your vision checked, all of these actions can reduce your risk of falling.
Myth 3: Taking medication doesn’t increase my risk of falling.
Reality: There are many medications that have side effects that can actually increase the risk for a fall. Some medications make you dizzy or sleepy, which greatly increases your risk of falling. Others may make it difficult to think clearly or make you feel light headed or off balance. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the side effects of the medications you’re taking to understand if they may increase your fall risk.
Preventing Fall Risks at Home
- Use non-slip rugs with rubber backing
- Wrap up lose wires and cords or tape them down to the floor. Keep them out of walkways.
- Keep pathways clear of excessive furniture
- Keep floors clear of items that can cause someone to trip like shoes, magazines, pets, etc
- Fix loose or uneven steps
- Install handrails on both sides.
- Attach non-slip rubber tread to steps
- Increase lighting at the top and bottom of stairs and turn them on when using the stairs
- Do not leave items laying on the steps
- Ensure lamps are easy to reach
- Use night lights
- Store flashlights near your bed where you can easily reach them, in case of a power outage
- Keep often-used items in easy-to-reach places
- Never use a chair as a step stool
- Wipe up spills immediately
- Add grab bars next to toilets and inside showers
- Use a non-slip rubber mat or self-adhesive strips on the floor of the tub and shower
- Add a raised toilet seat to assist with going from sitting to stand or vise versa.
- Use a shower chair or bench to sit on when taking a shower
For an easy-to-use guide, download this simple home checklist provided by Ohio Health to make sure your home is fall proof.
Article contributed by: Jennifer Grant, physical therapist, MedStar Visiting Nurse Association