Updated February 15, 2021 – A common fear amongst seniors is falling at home.
According to the World Health Organization, falls are one of the leading causes of emergency room visits of people over 65 years of age. Even active seniors can be susceptible. In fact, falls are the primary reason for injuries in the elderly.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that 3 million elderly people are treated in emergency for fall injuries each year. When a senior falls, they are likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries, cuts, fractures, and broken bones.
If you are a senior or have an elderly loved one at home, you can focus on preventing the risk of falling by learning about the causes of falls and employing some the following fall safety tips for seniors.
Fall prevention makes a HUGE difference in how a person spends their elder years. Look at some statistics in this…Alzheimer’s Association – SC (@AlzSC) October 27, 2016
Did you know that 95% of hip fractures are a result of falls? Other serious injuries that elderly people sustain due to falling include head injuries and broken bones. It makes sense to prevent these injuries for older people who are a fall risk by simply implementing the recommendations we make in this article.
Risk Factors For Falls
Some of the most common risk factors that make someone more susceptible to falls include:
- Limited physical abilities
- Limited physical endurance
- Foot problems such as numbness, peripheral neuropathy, drop foot, etc.
- Unstable gait
- Balance problems
- Poor muscle strength in the lower extremities
- Neurological disorders
- Low blood pressure
- Impaired vision
Any one of these common causes of falls and medical conditions put elderly adults at a higher risk for falling and causing a serious injury to themselves. Every family member that is caring for a senior loved one should be aware of these risk factors.
Fall Prevention Checklist For Elderly And Caregivers
The good news is that many fall injuries, even nonfatal injuries due to falling can be avoided. Use these tips listed below to help yourself and/or a senior loved one to prevent from falling in the home.
- Elders should stay active. A physically active elderly person can build and maintain stronger legs and muscles, which can help to reduce the risk of falling. In the long run, an exercise program like walking or tai chi can also improve the body’s mobility and flexibility and helps to lessen the symptoms of arthritis, which again reduces the chances of falling. Even if you walk with a cane or a walker – physical activity can help greatly. Ask your physician for a referral to a physical therapist to get you started.
- Stair aids for seniors living in multi level homes. There are several types of stair aids that can help seniors who have to use stairs in their home. Whether it’s a stair lift or some other type of stair aid – installing these can help to prevent future falls. A home assessment by an occupational therapist can help you to identify what changes and assistive devices can help you
- Make stairs safer. Use colored glow in the dark tape on steps or paint each step a different color to help anyone with low visual acuity to identify each step. Adding stair treads and additional lighting on the staircase is very important as well. Read more about modifying stairs.
- Wear appropriate eyewear. Vision problems can increase the risk of fall in seniors. Having your eyes checked regularly by an eye doctor and wearing any needed glasses or contact lenses can decrease the risk of falls.
- Be mindful of medications. Some prescription drugs have side effects such as drowsiness or dizziness, which can increase the risk of falls for seniors. Don’t be hesitant to speak to your doctor about changing your medications if they are causing the types of side effects that are causing you to fall.
- Use appropriate mobility tools. If you need a walker or a cane or a wheelchair – do not hesitate to use them. They can take some time to get used to but in the long run they can help you to keep your independence and help to prevent you from falling.
- Add some senior friendly furniture that will help your senior loved to get up and down from their favorite sitting spot like this Laptop Table with Safety Handle.
- Wear appropriate shoes. One small factor that can contribute to slips and falls are inappropriate footwear. It seems like such a simple little thing but wearing shoes with high heels or smooth soles or ones that don’t fit properly can help to create a situation where your senior loved one can slip or trip and fall. We strongly recommend sturdy shoes with a low heel or flat and with a non skid sole.
- Non slip socks for seniors. An older person like my elderly mother, who insist on wearing socks instead of shoes in their home has a much higher risk of falling. There are a large variety of non slip socks for both men and women to choose from. The best way to avoid a possible injury is to switch to these non slip socks.
- Ensure there are enough lights throughout the home. Well lit living areas can help to prevent someone from bumping or tripping over something. I can’t tell you how many patients I treated who fell due to poor lighting when going from their bed to the bathroom during the night.
- Get rid of throw rugs. Or at the very least, secure them from sliding with non-slip backing or by putting a slip resistant material underneath. (Read more about why you should eliminate throw rugs here.)
- Immediately clean up any spills. It’s such a simple thing but slipping on a wet substance has been known to cause injury.
- Declutter all living spaces. Removing excessive furniture, knick-knacks, plants, etc. and generally decluttering living spaces throughout the house will reduce the chances of tripping or bumping into these items and falling. Don’t forget to also declutter the shower stall!
- Use appropriate step stools. Replacing a regular step stool with one that has an extended handle can certainly help to keep someone from falling off that step stool. This way, seniors can balance themselves when they need to retrieve items from high shelves. Better still, encourage them to ask for help in such cases or empty high shelves and move items to lower shelves.
- Re-organize kitchen cabinets. Moving items that are frequently used to lower, more accessible cabinets or drawers will help to prevent having to use a step stool.
- Place slip-resistant, water-absorbent mats near any sources of water. Mats in front of the kitchen sink, the refrigerator, or by a counter that has a water filtration system on it are good locations.
- Replace caster chairs with regular chairs. Many seniors have chairs with caster wheels in their kitchen – I have personally seen and known several older adults who have fallen from these types of chairs. I strongly recommend that these be removed and replaced with standard chairs without wheels.
- Install grab bars throughout the home. Many think of grab bars as just for the bathroom but I do believe they can be used throughout the home, wherever it may be needed to help someone get up, get down or simply to walk down the hallway.
- Remodel the shower. Converting a shower to a barrier free walk in shower may seem like a big home remodeling project but it will be worth it to help prevent an incident of falling.
- Use shower benches and/or chairs. If you don’t have a built in bench in your shower then use a shower bench or chair. It’s estimated that about 80% of falls in the home occur in the bathroom so eliminating any possibility would be helpful.
- Install a flexible shower head. It’s much safer to use a shower head that can be handled directly from the sitting position in the shower and/or tub so install one with a mount that can be placed close to the shower chair/bench.
- Consider a walk in tub or cut out tub. If you or your senior loved one loves baths then a walk in tub would be the safest option as they grow older. But if they can still get up and down from a standard bathtub then you can consider a lower cost option of a cut out tub.
- Install non slip flooring or convert existing flooring. You don’t have to install non slip flooring if you can’t afford it. There are several products available that can be used to make your existing floors less slippery.
- Use alert devices. Whether you use a medical alert device or Alexa or personal alarm device or any of the motion sensor products available these days – it’s important to use something just in case you do fall and need help. Also, if you wear a hearing aid, you may want to try this one from Starkey which also detects falls.
Many of these are just simple things that you can begin doing today!
Although there is no 100% surefire way to prevent falling – these tips can certainly help to minimize the risks that are so often associated with older adults falling in their homes.
Being safe at home should always be top priority for everyone. If you want to prevent falls, there are a number of simple changes that you can make in your lifestyle that will help reduce the risk of accidents or injuries related to falling.
We hope these 24 tips have helped educate and motivate you to take action on safety precautions around your house.