For older adults, a fall can cause serious injury. Learn how to fall-proof your home or a loved one’s to minimize the risks.
As we age, falls can become a serious health concern, leading to severe bruising, cuts or even injuries requiring a visit to the emergency room. The good news is there are some things you can do around your home, or a loved one’s home, to minimize the risk of falling. We asked Chelsea O’Driscoll, manager, Rehabilitation Therapy Services-Home Care, for some tips on fall prevention.
Why is it important to be aware of fall prevention in the home?
Falls can have a devastating impact on our quality of life. They are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury, as well as a common reason for hip fractures and other broken bones. Complications from falls can be costly, resulting in hospitalization, rehabilitation and long-term care. And among older adults, falls are the number one cause of death from injury.
However, many falls are completely preventable, and there are some easy steps you can take to keep your home environment safer.
Can certain health conditions contribute to falls?
Certain health conditions do increase the risk of falling. These include lower body weakness, difficulty with balance and impaired vision. Taking medications, including sedatives, antidepressants, pain medications and even over-the-counter medications can increase your fall risk.
Conditions like diabetes and neuropathy may affect the sensation in your feet, which can put you at risk to fall. Also, if you have a history of sudden drops in blood pressure, this may cause dizziness, which can in turn lead to a fall.
About 40 percent of stroke survivors also have serious falls within a year of their stroke, according to the American Stroke Association, 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.
What are some simple actions that can be taken to reduce your risk of falling in the home?
- It’s important to identify and remove any hazards in your home that could put you at risk for falling. These include broken or uneven steps, loose carpet or throw rugs and clutter that can be tripped over.
- Keep nightlights in areas you may need to access in the middle of the night, like hallways or bathrooms.
- Give yourself time when changing positions, like getting out of bed or up from a chair, to make sure you’re not dizzy before moving.
- Do exercises to increase your leg strength and improve your balance. Many gyms can help you design an exercise program to fit these needs.
- If you are having trouble with weakness or balance, ask your care provider if a referral to physical therapy would be appropriate.
- Have your eyes checked on a regular basis and get (and wear) new glasses when needed.
- Choose shoes with non-slip soles that aren’t too thick.
- Review your complete medication list (including over-the-counter medications) with your care provider to learn what might increase your risk of falling.