Falls at home can put you at a high risk of a serious injury. Especially in older adults, the risk of falling and getting seriously injured is very high. As a person gets older, there are certain physical changes along with health conditions, and even the medications that are used for treating these conditions increase the likelihood of falling. In fact, it has been found that falls are the number one cause of injury in older people. However, instead of living with the constant fear of falling, it is better to take certain prevention tips so that you are able to stay safe. Here are some safety tips to prevent falls at home.
10 Safety Tips to Prevent Falls at Home
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of three older people fall every year. Falls are the number one cause of injury in elderly adults, resulting in serious injuries such as hip fractures, cuts, and even severe brain and head injuries.(1) If not treated in time, these injuries can prove to be fatal.
Even when there is no serious injury, a fall can still be quite frightening for seniors, and it may lead to them avoiding certain activities since they are afraid to fall again.
Whether it is due to electrical cords, rickety stairs, or slippery floors, most of the common causes of falls are present within the house itself. This is why the basics of fall prevention should begin with creating a safe living space and ensuring that you take care of the most common reasons that can potentially cause you to fall.
Here are certain safety tips to prevent falls at home.
Removal of Home Hazards
The most important tip for keeping your home safe to prevent falls is to remove all types of hazards. You need to take a look all-around your house in each room, even the bathrooms. To make the home safer follow these tips:
- Move any coffee tables, plant stands, and electrical cords from the walkways. Keep the walkways clear of any hazards. All walkways should be clear, open and easily accessible to the elderly, allowing them to walk around freely without fear. This is all the more important if they are using any walking accessory or a wheelchair.
- Remove all boxes, electrical cords, phone cords, and newspapers from the walkways.
- Repair any loose carpeting and wooden floorboards immediately. These can be sources of tripping.
- Secure any loose rugs with tacks, double-sided tape, or slip-resistant backing. Also, remove any free rugs or carpets from the house.
- Make sure to clean up any spilled grease, foods, or liquids immediately.
- Put non-slip mats in the shower or bathtub. While showering, make use of a bath seat. This will allow you to sit and take a shower.
Install Grab Bars
Grab bars are one of the simplest and most unobtrusive tools that should be installed throughout the house to allow older adults to have more control over how they move around the house. Having something to hold onto also increases the confidence with which they are able to move around, thus increasing their independence. At the same time, it also decreases their need for physical assistance.
It is common for older adults to try to reach out and hold onto items along their path to get more balance and extra support. Installing grab bars along the walkways, especially, helps provide support so that older adults do not need to depend on moveable objects to hold onto while walking. This increases their risk of falling over.
It is essential to make sure that the grab bars are strong enough to support the weight of adults and should be installed properly to prevent any falls.(2)
Improve Lighting Sources In The House
It is essential that the walkways and other areas of the house are well lit. Dark regions in the home make it harder for the elderly to see correctly and detect potential fall hazards. Some areas to ensure proper lighting include corners of the furniture, the edge of the stairs, and the walkways.
Adding more light sources throughout the home also helps people navigate the space better and avoid the fall hazards lurking throughout the house. This also ensures that even on cloudy days, there is sufficient lighting in the home for people to navigate around the house without the risk of falling.
Pick Sensible Shoes
- As part of the fall prevention plan, you should consider picking footwear that is not slippery. Floppy slippers, high heels, and shoes that have slick soles increases the risk of stumbling or falling. They also increase the risk of slipping and falling.
- Walking in stocking feet also increases the risk of falling, so it is better not to go bare feet inside the house. It is better to wear correctly fitting and sturdy shoes that have non-skid soles.
- Supportive rubber-soled and sensible shoes also help decrease joint pain in elderly who suffer from arthritis or other joint conditions.(3)
Remain Physically Active
Some level of physical activity will help prevent many falls. But only do this with the approval of your doctor. You can consider doing some light activities such as water workouts, walking, tai chi, or yoga. These are gentle exercises that will force you to make slow and gentle movements. These types of activities lower the risk of falling as they improve the core strength, coordination, balance, and overall flexibility as well.
Many seniors start avoiding physical activities since it may cause them pain. Avoiding physical activities will make you feel more scared about falling. This is why most doctors recommend that you practice some amount of carefully monitored exercise programs. Your doctor may also recommend that you go to a physical therapist. It is a good idea to go to a physical therapist as they can help create a customized exercise plan to help you improve your flexibility, balance, gait, and muscle strength.(4)
Make Sure Your Furniture Is Sturdy
The chairs and other furniture in the house, especially those that are located near the walkways, need to be sturdy enough to support the weight of a person who reaches out to stop a fall or steady themselves.
Ensure Safety in the Bathrooms
Bathrooms are one of the most common places where falls occur. It is essential to have a non-slip tub and shower surfaces. Also, place handrails near the bath and toilets to make it easy for people to haul themselves up from a sitting position. Install guard bars outside and inside the tubs and showers and also grab bars next to the toilet.
Handrails and bars will help you combat some of the most common causes of falls in the bathroom, including trying to step in and out of the bathtub and wet floors.
Rearrange the kitchen
The kitchen is another common place where falls occur frequently. Avoid keeping items on high shelves or keeping them in difficult to reach areas. Large items should not be stored above the head level as it can cause an older adult to lose their balance and fall. The item can also fall on their head and cause injury.
It is best to rearrange the kitchen so that the frequently used items are within easy reach, and seniors are tempted to climb on something to reach these items.
Have a Phone Within Easy Reach
Multiple phones should be placed in strategic places all around the house. This ensures that there is no need for the senior people to hurry to phone for answering a call or to call for help in case of an emergency.
Opt For Living On One Level
Even after having guardrails and guard bars for helping with movement and balance, it is still possible for the elderly to have a fall and get seriously injured while trying to go from one level to the next inside the house. Climbing stairs present a significant falling hazard. Whenever possible, prefer to limit yourself to live on one level. If you are climbing stairs, then take extra care while negotiating them. If it is not possible to restrict your activities to one level, then try to limit the number of trips you take up and down the staircase.
Whenever necessary, ask for help from family members and friends. Ask your doctor to recommend an occupational therapist and physical therapist. Your doctor will also help you come up with many fall prevention tips and strategies.
- Cdc.gov. (2020). Important Facts about Falls | Home and Recreational Safety | CDC Injury Center. [online] Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html [Accessed 31 Jan. 2020].
- Tinetti, M.E. and Speechley, M., 1989. Prevention of falls among the elderly. New England journal of medicine, 320(16), pp.1055-1059.
- Overstall, P.W., Exton-Smith, A.N., Imms, F.J. and Johnson, A.L., 1977. Falls in the elderly related to postural imbalance. Br Med J, 1(6056), pp.261-264.
- Gehlsen, G.M. and Whaley, M.H., 1990. Falls in the elderly: Part II, Balance, strength, and flexibility. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 71(10), pp.739-741.