Focus on Preventing Falls
We all want to protect our family members as they age and help them stay safe, secure, and independent. Knowing how to protect older adults from falls, a leading cause of injury, is a step toward this goal.
Each year, one in every three adults age 65 or older will fall and two million will be treated in an emergency department for injuries caused by falls.
Fall injuries, such as hip fracture and traumatic brain injuries (TBI), can be a serious threat to seniors’ health and independence.
Thankfully, falls are not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, many falls can be prevented.
We can all play a key role in protecting the older adults we care about.
You can play a role in preventing falls. Encourage the older adults you care about to:
- Get some exercise: Lack of exercise can lead to weak legs, and this increases the chance of falling. Exercise programs like Tai Chi can increase strength and improve balance; making falls less likely for aging adults.
- Be mindful of medications: Some medicines—or combinations of medicines— can have side effects like dizziness or drowsiness. This can make falls more likely. Having a doctor or pharmacist review all medications can help reduce the chance of risky side effects and drug interactions.
- Keep their vision sharp: Poor vision can make it harder to get around safely. To help make sure they’re seeing clearly, older adults should have their eyes checked every year and wear glasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength.
- Eliminate hazards at home. About half of all falls happen at home. A home safety check can help identify fall hazards that need to be removed or changed, like clutter and poor lighting.
Steps for Home Safety
The following can help older adults stay safer from falls in their homes:
- Remove things you can trip over (like papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.
- Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.
- Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.
- Have grab bars put in next to your toilet and inside and next to the tub or shower.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
- Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Hang light-weight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
- Have handrails and lights put in on all staircases.
- Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
A Checklist for Preventing Falls
- Make sure all handrails are not broken and are securely fastened.
- Both sides of the steps should have handrails.
Floors and rugs
- Make sure all floor boards are even and rugs, including area rugs, are secured to the floor with tacks, non-skid pads or double-sided tape.
- Use non-skid floor wax.
- Be sure that you can move safely in bathroom area, and in and out of the tub or shower.
- Remove soap build-up in tub or shower on a regular basis.
- Place non-slip strips in bath/shower.
- Install adjustable height shower heads.
- Mount grab bars at the toilet, bath and shower on walls with secure reinforcements, to prevent the bars from coming loose.
- Secure bath mats with non-slip, double-sided rug tape.
- Items that you use frequently, such as dishes and food items should be easy to reach.
- If you have to use a step stool, make sure that it has a bar at the top to hold on to.
- Place nightlights in hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms, and stairways.
- Install light switches at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Place a lamp (and telephone) near your bed.
- Keep lighting uniform in each room and add lighting to dark spaces.
- Check whether hallways and rooms have obstacles to safe movement.
- Move newspapers, boxes, electrical and phone cords, plants, and furniture out of traffic areas.
- Store clothing, bed coverings, and other household items where you can reach them comfortably.
Outside of your home
- Repair holes, uneven joints on walkways.
- Arrange to have leaves, snow, and ice removed from stairs and walkways. Use salt or sand throughout the winter months.
- Make sure outside lighting is working in entryways and other walk areas.
- Check that handrails are not broken and are securely fastened. Both sides of steps should have handrails.