Recent tumbles by prominent politicians highlight a common experience among older adults in the U.S., where nearly one-third of people 65 and older reported falling during the previous year. About 3 million older adults a year are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries and about 800,000 people a year are hospitalized –typically for hip fractures and head injuries.
Kristen M. Cline, trauma program manager for Sutter’s Eden Medical Center, says, “Falls are the majority of traumas we see at Eden and a few minor changes can help you avoid a fall.”
Look around your home, paying attention to walkways, bathrooms, kitchen, and bedrooms.
For general use areas: keep the floor clear of clutter that can be a tripping hazard. Keep a phone within reach should you need to call for help (especially near the bed at night). Secure floor rugs with double sided tape or slip resistant backing.
Bathrooms: remember that towel racks are not grab bars. Grab bars should be properly installed near the tub/shower and toilet. Use nonslip strips or mats in and outside the shower. Avoid the water being too hot, which can cause dizziness or burns. Keep a towel close to avoid losing your balance when reaching.
Kitchen: place frequently used items within reach. Putting things within reach will help you avoid relying on a step stool or chair that you can easily lose your balance on. If you use a step stool, make sure it has a handle for safe usage. Remove any rugs or floor mats that are not secured to the floor with nonskid tape or rubber backing. Clean up spills immediately—kitchen floors can be slippery and dangerous when wet.
Bedroom: make sure there is a nightlight to light the walkway or a light within reach of the bed should you need to get up at night.
Minor changes in your home environment will help you avoid falls. Other adjustments can also help: eat properly, limit alcohol consumption, take prescribed medications only as directed, and get enough exercise.
Remember exercise is important to keeping your body strong and preventing falls. If you feel comfortable walking around outdoors in your neighborhood, be sure to watch for cars and follow all traffic signals while crossing streets. If you prefer to stay home, you can find ways to exercise like marching/walking in place, following along with an exercise show on television, or putting on music and dancing around your newly clutter-free floors!
With a few simple changes and care you can take the steps to be safe in your home to prevent falls.