Over a third of people age 65 and older will fall each year. Falls are not just embarrassing, they are a significant problem for older adults. Falling is the leading cause of injuries in this age group, injuries which can threaten a person’s independence and active lifestyle. Even falls that do not result in injury can have serious consequences, such as creating a fear of falling, which can lead to inactivity.
Imbalance and falling are not normal occurrences of aging. By making simple changes in the home and receiving balance therapy, many falls can be prevented.
Are You At Risk?
Several factors can contribute to the risk of falling. The more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of falling. However, with every risk factor eliminated, you reduce your risk of future falls.
Risk factors may include:
- Previous falls
- Multiple prescription drugs, especially sedatives
- Impaired balance or walking
- Decreased sensation
- Impaired vision
- Decreased activity level
- Decreased overall strength
- Environmental hazards at home
Reduce Your Chance of Fall and Injury
- Exercise regularly to maintain or improve your strength, endurance and flexibility. Walking or strength training can help reduce the bone loss of osteoporosis and reduce risk of fracture. Consult a physician prior to initiating any exercise program.
- Use a cane or walker to help with your balance if you feel unsteady. Be especially careful when walking on or in darkened conditions or on slick, uneven surfaces. A physical therapist can provide training for using an assistive device.
- Be aware that the side effects of some medications can cause loss of balance.
- Test your vision and hearing regularly.
- Wait a few minutes after sitting down or standing up to avoid lightheadedness or loss of balance.
Helpful Hints to Safeguard Your Home
- Increase the lighting throughout your house.
- Use a night light and exterior lights.
- Keep all major pathways clear.
- Make sure carpet or linoleum is firmly and smoothly attached to the floor.
- Firmly attach a railing next to the stairs.
In the Bathroom
- Place grab bars in tub, shower, and near the toilet.
- Place non-skid mats in the tub.
- Remove rugs or put in place only when bathing.
- Use a shower chair and a hand-held shower head.
In the Kitchen
- Keep frequently used items on lower shelves.
- Use a step stool with handrails to reach higher shelves.
- Do not stand on chairs.
- Clean up spills.
- Remove rugs.
In the Bedroom
- Use a night light or light switch within reach of the bed.
- Place a telephone within reach of the bed.
- Consider use of a urinal or bedside commode for night-time toileting.
In the Living Room
- Keep telephone and electrical cords away from pathways.
- Move footrests and low tables so they are not in your path.
- Secure or remove rugs so they do not slip.
- Sit in higher chairs and couches to make standing easier.
- Wear non-skid, low-heeled shoes.
- Avoid slippers, socks and slip-on shoes.
- Avoid shoes with heavy, thick soles, or narrow heels.