Falls can be more serious as we age, and even a small stumble can cause a serious injury. Learn how to prevent or minimize falls in the home.
Falling is a natural part of learning to walk, but as we age, falls can lead to severe bruising, cuts or injuries requiring a visit to the emergency room. We asked Danette Gaetke, Renown Rehabilitation Hospital program coordinator, to share some tips on minimizing falls around the house.
Why is it important to be aware of fall prevention in the home?
Falls can be devastating — they most common cause of traumatic brain injury. Other common injuries after a fall include hip fractures and other broken bones. In addition, complications from falls are costly, resulting in the need for hospitalization, rehabilitation and long-term care. Injuries resulting from falls may permanently impair function and the individual’s ability to live independently. Among older adults, falls are the number one cause of death from injury, and the risk of falling increases with age. The good news is many falls are completely preventable.
Can certain health conditions contribute to falls?
Health conditions that increase the risk of falling include lower body weakness, difficulty with balance and impaired vision. Taking medications, including sedatives, antidepressants, pain medications and even many over-the-counter medications can increase the risk of falls.
Other risk factors include hazards in the home such as broken or uneven steps, loose carpet or throw rugs and clutter that can be tripped over.
According to the American Stroke Association, about 40 percent of stroke survivors have serious falls within a year of their stroke, since strokes often affect the central nervous system. After a stroke, the body’s balance system may be affected and one side may be stronger than the other.
Here are three simple actions that can be taken to reduce your risk of falling in the home:
- Remove clutter, throw rugs and other trip hazards.
- Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Many gyms can help you design an exercise program. Tai Chi and yoga are also helpful. If you are having significant problems with weakness and balance, ask your doctor if a referral for physical therapy would be appropriate.
- Have your eyes checked and get new glasses when needed.
Remember to discuss your concerns with your doctor, and be sure to tell your doctor if you have fallen. Review your complete medication list (including over-the-counter medications) for medications or combinations that may increase your risk of falling.
Learn more about fall prevention, or to make an appointment with a Renown Health physical therapist, visit Renown Rehabilitation Hospital online or call 775-982-3500.