15 Steps to Senior Fall Prevention at Home
How to prevent falls where they are most likely to happen
By Melissa Willets
A fall at home can be devastating physically, emotionally, and financially for older people. It can result in an unexpected hospital stay and make activities more difficult — even daunting. That’s why it’s important to protect seniors by taking steps to minimize the risk of falls in the home.
According to the National Council on Aging, 75 percent of falls in older adults happen at home. Falls are also the leading cause of injuries, both fatal and nonfatal, among adults over the age of 65, largely because of changes in balance, coordination, vision, and medications that can cause side effects, like dizziness.
It may seem overwhelming to decrease the risk for falls, but the NCOA offers this tip: Start at the front entrance of the house and go room by room, noting potential ways to prevent falls along the way. Ask questions like: are the stairs even and wide enough to offer adequate support?
“Having stairs in good condition with appropriate dimensions to meet code and the right kind of handrails could be the difference between enjoying life in your home for another decade or declining health in a nursing home,” Dean E. Shea, a National Association of Home Builders Certified Aging in Place Specialist, told us.
Shea also suggests these steps for preventing falls at home:
- Check that every entrance to the home is adequately lit. Motion-sensor lighting will automatically illuminate areas where falls can occur.
- Situate a small table near the entrance to the home so there’s a place to set down shopping bags or other items.
- Place items, such as dishes, food, toiletries, and medications, easily within reach in each room.
- Look for tripping hazards that can lead to falls, like rug edges sticking up, exposed cords, or narrow walking spaces between furniture. Remember to place rubber backs on rugs to stop slippage.
- Eliminate as much clutter as possible throughout the home, especially in hallways.
- Examine stairs for proper lighting and potential hazards. The NCOA advises placing tape in a contrasting color on each step so it’s easy to see where one step ends and another begins. Shea adds, “If your stairs are slippery, a carpet runner, rubber tread covers, or a paint with sand in it to give a nonskid surface would be a safety upgrade.”
- Consider installing a second handrail on stairs for stability on both walls.
- Eliminate the need to go upstairs repeatedly throughout the day by keeping all daily activities on the first level. If possible, relocate to a home without stairs to truly make senior fall prevention a priority.
- Clear the path from the bed to the bathroom.
- Add night-lights to easily find the bathroom at night.
- Install a rail on the bed, especially if dizziness between lying to sitting or sitting to standing is a problem.
- Place a rubber mat on the bottom of the bathtub or shower.
- Install a rail in the bathtub or shower. Consider using a shower chair and a handheld shower nozzle.
- Install a grab bar by the toilet or attach a raised seat with handles to the toilet to assist with sitting and standing.
- Wear sensible footwear and properly fitting clothing that won’t drag on the floor around the house.
Aside from adjustments to your home, you can talk to your doctor or a physical therapist if you notice that your vision, balance, or other health conditions are making getting around difficult. You may need to adjust medications you’re taking to think clearer and experience less dizziness. Make sure a phone or medical alert device is nearby at all times, so if a fall does occur, help can be contacted immediately.
One of the most important things an older person can do to prevent falls is to ask for support. A caregiver or hired help can do risky activities, like accessing items on high shelves, cleaning the house, or assisting with yard work. Tell a caregiver if you are feeling fearful about falling so they can decrease your risk of falls at home, and you can feel safe where you live. Likewise, if a caregiver suggests you may need more assistance with everyday activities, be open to their feedback. Remember, they’re trying to help you continue to lead the healthy, active lifestyle you love.
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