8 simple ways to prevent falls at home
It’s National Fall Prevention Awareness Week! Now’s a great time to check in on your parents, grandparents, or other older adults in your life to see how you might help them stay safer and avoid falling.
Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injuries among adults over age 65? In fact, falls send over 3 million older adults to the emergency room for treatment every year. Some falls result in hip fractures, cuts, serious head and brain injuries, and even death. Even when falls don’t result in a serious injury, falling can be extremely frightening for older adults. As a result, they may completely avoid certain activities because they’re afraid of falling again.
Between 50 and 70 % of all falls are due to unsafe conditions in the home. Fortunately, a lot of these unsafe conditions are preventable, and don’t require a handy man. By enlisting a little help from family members, you can greatly reduce the risks of falling at home. And expensive changes aren’t necessary, all it takes is a little creativity.
Here’s 8 simple ways to stay safe and reduce the risk of falling at home:
1. Increase lighting: Adding more lighting in halls, stairways, along outdoor walkways, and other areas can make moving around at night much safer. Nightlights are useful in the bathroom or bedroom — or anywhere light switches are hard to find. Keep a flashlight within easy reach of your bedside to stay safe during emergencies or those late-night trips to the kitchen.
2. Remove clutter: Clear your floors, stairs, and walkways of clutter and other things you could trip over. Rearrange furniture so that it works well with the flow of traffic. Use double-sided tape to secure the edges of area rugs. Secure extension cords, cables, and wires with tape or zip-ties to prevent tripping over them.
3. In the bathroom: Improve traction on floors, in showers and bathtubs with nonslip mats and adhesive strips. Using a shower chair and a handheld showerhead can help reduce the risk of falling while bathing. Installing grab bars next to the toilet can help improve safety in the bathroom but avoid “stick on” bars that may not be reliable. ADA approved metal bars that attach to the wall studs are best.
4. On the stairs: Install handrails on both sides of indoor and outdoor staircases, or anywhere else a little extra support is needed. Painting the top edges of steps a contrasting color is also a great way to make them easier to see.
5. Exercise: A regular exercise program can prevent muscle atrophy and help build balance, strength, and flexibility. The exercise doesn’t need to be intense but remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.
6. Check your medications: Review your medications with your family doctor or pharmacist. Ask about side effects that may make you dizzy or cause you to lose your balance.
7. Have your vision checked: Have your eyes checked regularly and keep your eyeglass prescription updated so you can see hazards to avoid falling over them.
8. Talk to your family: When it comes to making your home safer, family support can be helpful. Traumatic falls aren’t just an issue for older adults — they can affect anyone.
We hope these tips help you balance some of the risks of falls. And, even though Fall Prevention Week ends soon, it’s never a bad time to look for other ways to protect yourself and others from falls. You can find more fall prevention strategies on our website at doh.wa.gov/FindingOurBalance.
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