How Can Older Adults Avoid Falls?
7 Tips to Help You Remain Safe and Independent
Accidental falls are the #1 cause of injury-related death and emergency room visits for adults over age 65 – and most of these occur at home. Falls are a leading cause of broken bones and hip fractures. They are responsible for more than half of fatal head injuries and over 40% of nursing home admissions. Experiencing a fall, even without serious injury, can result in anxiety, and depression, as well as fear of remaining active – which can weaken muscles and make further falls more likely. Whether you are recovering from injuries sustained in a fall or are interested in avoiding an unplanned tumble in the first place, the following tips have been proven to help improve your chances of remaining safe – and living independently in your own home.
1. Focus On the Eyes
Clear vision is essential to spotting hazards that can create trip and fall hazards. If you wear glasses, be sure your prescription is up-to-date and you are wearing the eyeglasses your doctor recommends. Eyewear with self-tinting lenses can be problematic, especially when coming in from outside before the tinted lenses become clear again. Bifocals can make it hard to navigate steps and uneven ground. Consider switching to plain, clear lenses in these situations or wait until tinted lenses clear before entering a building. If you must wear these types of lenses, be extra careful.
2. Upgrade Your Lighting
Ensure all entryways, hallways, and paths of travel throughout the home are brightly lit.
Consider adding motion-activated sensor lighting. The cost of these fixtures have dropped significantly over the years and now fit easily within most budgets. Motion lights can also help you save on energy expenses by only using power when lights are in use, but be sure spent bulbs are replaced immediately. Do not attempt to change bulbs yourself. Ask for help. The use of LED bulbs can significantly reduce how often they require replacement.
Be sure light switches are present to control overhead lighting at the top and bottom of all stairs, at both ends of hallways, and at entrances to each room and area. If running new electrical lines is beyond your budget, consider installing economical battery operated or plug-in light control switches.
Keep an easy-to-operate lamp beside your bed and be sure to turn it on before getting out of bed.
3. Store Items Within Reach
Avoid the temptation to climb up on stepstools, chairs, and other items to reach things you have stored out of reach. You can easily lose your balance and fall. Be sure all of the items you use regularly, such as plates and cooking utensils, spices, and cleaning goods, are kept within arm’s reach. Ask for help retrieving special or seasonal items that may need to be stored in high cabinets or shelves.
4. Banish Throw Rugs
Loose rugs pose a serious fall hazard. They can easily bunch up and cause you to trip and fall. Consider eliminating them from your home. If you prefer to continue using throw rugs, use heavy rubber-backed rugs that cannot easily slide around or bunch up. Be sure that they lie flat and that the edges do not pose a tripping hazard.
5. Address Health Conditions
Make an appointment with your doctor. Discuss any health conditions and medications that may predispose you to increased fall risk and what can be done. Health conditions that may increase the risk of falls include low blood pressure when rising from a seated position, impaired vision, disorders/medications that cause dizziness, and foot disorders. Extra caution should be used when taking medications with adverse effects that may have bearing on the proper functioning of your central nervous system, including opioids, benzodiazepines, and psychoactive medications. These medications must be used with the utmost caution. They should be taken at the minimum effective dose and only as long as necessary. Ask if an equally effective alternative with fewer side effects is an option for you.
6. Do a Floor and Stairway Check-Up
Any wobbly, cracked, or broken stairs, uneven flooring, and frayed or damaged carpeting should be repaired or replaced immediately. If this is not possible, restrict access to the area until it is safe for use.
Do not store items on stairs. Instead, place a small basket at the top and bottom floor away from the steps to be used to transport items up and downstairs. Ask for help moving these items periodically if necessary.
Install non-slip tread tape on bare steps.
Consider adding strips of different colors of high-contrast bright fluorescent tape to the top lips of stair tread edges to make them easier to see.
All stairways should be brightly lit with overhead motion lighting and/or light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs.
Install a second handrail opposite the other. Be sure both are securely attached and able to support your body weight.
7. Do a Bathroom Safety Check-Up
Install traction strips or a non-slip mat to the bottom of your tub.
Be sure a hand-held shower head and shower chair are available in case you need them. Consider using them even if you don’t feel dizzy to help avoid the risk of falling.
Use heavy, non-slip, rubber-backed rugs to help avoid slipping on the wet floor.
8. Install Railings and Grab Bars
Be sure you have something secure to hold onto in each room and along all pathways in and around your home in case you feel dizzy or lightheaded, including the following areas:
Bathroom (Near Both the Toilet and Tub)
Bedroom (Including a Bed Rail)
Along Outdoor Sidewalks and Walkways
Beside Exterior Doors
9. Use Mobility Devices
If you have wondered if a cane or walker might be helpful, chances are you should go ahead and ask your doctor about fitting you with one and providing proper instruction in its use. Do not purchase these items from drug stores or other retailers. It is important that they be properly sized. If you have been prescribed a mobility device, use it.
10. Wear Sensible Shoes
Do not wear flip-flops, high heeled shoes, socks only, slippers or shoes without backs. Wear a sturdy pair of house slippers/shoes inside and sturdy shoes with non-slip soles outside.
11. Work to Improve Muscle Strength, Flexibility and Balance
As we age, it is important to exercise. Even if exercise was never a part of your life, actively working to maintain and improve strength, flexibility, and balance is essential to minimize age-related muscle loss and help avoid falls. Avoiding activity is not the solution to minimizing your fall risk. Ask your nearest senior center about the availability of exercise programs designed for fall prevention. These are often available at little to no cost. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe a physical or occupational therapy program for you. With your doctor’s approval, you may be able to continue your program in the comfort of home with a professionally designed fall prevention exercise program.
12. Keep a Phone Near You at All Times
Make it a habit to keep a cellphone with you in case you fall and need help. Keep it on your nightstand within arm’s reach. Sit it on a stand while you bathe.
We are encouraging older adults and their families to take preventive action to help avoid serious injuries caused by falls. After all, anyone can be seriously injured in a slip and fall accident. If you have an aging parent, grandparent, friend, or neighbor you care about, share this information with them. Let them know how they can stay healthy and independent as long as possible by avoiding risks known to cause falls. An investment in minimizing fall hazards is an investment in at-home independence.
Injured In a Slip and Fall Accident?
Get the Maximum Financial Compensation Allowed by Law
Regardless of how cautious you are, falls can happen. If you were seriously injured in a slip and fall accident on another’s property due to negligence, contact the skilled personal injury attorneys at Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law right away.
We Help You Get Back On Your Feet After a Fall Accident
Whether you fell and were seriously harmed as a result of a faulty stair or railing, a mess on the floor, or any other issue the property owner knew about yet failed to address, let us know. We can help determine if the property owner’s actions caused your injuries. You may be eligible to hold the property owner accountable for the negative impact their negligence had on your life. At Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law, we help our clients secure the compensation they need to get back on their feet after slip and fall accidents related to premises liability violations.
Contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law for a free initial consultation: (304) 292-4381.