Falls can occur anytime to people of any age. However, a fall can be especially dangerous to seniors because a senior is more likely to break a bone in a fall. And a broken bone in a senior can lead to a long recovery period and loss of independence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in people age 65 or older. One out of three people in this age group falls each year, and more than 90 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling.
Tips to Prevent Falls
First off, knowing the reasons why people fall can help you learn how to prevent such an accident from happening to your loved one. Most falls occur because of:
- Slipping as a result of loss of traction from improper footwear
- Balance issues
- Slow reflexes and reduced muscle strength
- Prior illness
- Poor vision
- Medications or excessive use of alcohol
Also, personal factors like age, lack of activity or exercise, bad habits (like smoking or drinking alcohol), and poor diet also increase the risk for falls or accidents.
American Senior Communities therapists offer advice on steps you can take to ensure your aging loved one’s safety in the home. Walk through the house room by room and note where modifications are needed – the bedroom, bathroom, hallways and main living areas should be given the most attention.
Room by room, here are some of the changes needed to help prevent falls:
- Install night lights for a clearer route for nighttime trips to the bathroom.
- Keep the floor clear of clutter and arrange furniture to allow for an unobstructed pathway.
- Make sure the bed is easy for your loved one to get in and out of; install rails if there’s risk of falling out of bed at night. Use non-slippery bed linens.
- Arrange clothes and shoes in the closet so they are easily accessible.
- Keep a phone and flashlight near the bed.
- Use non-slip rugs or mats in the shower and on the floor.
- Install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet.
- Utilize night lights.
- If necessary, use a raised toilet seat as well as a sturdy seat in the bathtub if your loved one is unsteady while showering.
- Place handrails in hallways or entryways as needed.
- Clear a path; keep stairs and hallways free from boxes, excess furniture and clutter.
- If stairs are not carpeted, put non-slips treads on them.
- Remove any area rugs from the top or bottom of staircases.
- Living Room
- Move low-rise furniture such as coffee tables, ottomans, magazine racks or plants out of the way.
- Keep cords to electronics tucked away, but do not put them under a rug.
- Remove raised rugs or area rugs, or secure them with slip-resistant backing.
- Make sure light switches are easily accessible at each room entrance to keep your loved one from walking around in a dark room. Or, put lights on a timer so they turn on automatically in the evening.
- Keep a cordless phone near your loved one’s favorite chair or spot on the couch so there’s no need to jump up and rush to answer a phone call. Having a phone nearby will also come in handy if a fall does occur.
Falls cannot always be prevented, but just by taking a few easy steps you can help reduce the risk of them. These precautions will help give you peace of mind that your loved one is safe, too.
If someone you know has fallen and is in need of post hospital therapy, visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com/mf.