Around one in four adults over the age of 65 will fall each year. Today, falls have become the leading cause of injuries (both fatal and nonfatal) in this age group. (Source) The good news is that many falls are preventable with a bit of preparation. There are steps that seniors can take to reduce their risk of falling (and subsequent injury). In this article, we’ll break down some prevention tips into three categories: preventing falls at home, preventing falls when an elderly person comes to visit your home, and preventing the risk of injury from falls through personal tools, health, and fitness. Let’s dive in.
9 Tips to Prevent Falls in the Elderly Person’s Home
Many elderly adults live alone. This fact can spark a justified fear of slips, trips, and falls in themselves and their loved ones. If no one is around when they fall, what will happen to them? Even if they don’t live alone, it can be a frightening thought to imagine your loved one taking a tumble. There are several preventative steps you can take today to ensure their risk of falls is reduced, such as:
1) Have a professional environmental safety assessment of the home.
A professional environmental safety assessment comes in two categories: general and targeted for individuals with specific safety concerns. Click here for more information about getting a professional home safety assessment.
2) Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep them in place.
A stray or lifted edge can be just enough to cause a trip and subsequent injury. By taping it down or removing it from a walking path, the risk is eliminated.
3) Put railings on both sides of stairways and make sure they are securely fastened.
Adding railings around the home (hallways, stairways, bathrooms, outside, etc.) can give your loved one some much-needed support walking around by themselves.
4) Place non-slip mats in the bathtub/shower and on any slippery surfaces.
Bathrooms are a significant trigger for falls because of their slick wet surfaces. To prevent injury, add non-slip mats, replace traditional bathtubs with a walk-in tub, and install a good fan to reduce moisture.
5) Keep floors clean and clutter-free.
Just about anything can quickly become a tripping hazard. Make sure that any item that causes stubbed toes, grandchildren’s toys, pet toys, wires, and any other trinkets are always in the correct space.
6) Use nightlights in hallways and bathrooms.
Poor lighting is also a significant contributor to slips, trips, and falls. By adding nightlights to areas used at night, strip lights to stairs, and additional lighting in dimly lit rooms, you can help an elderly adult whose vision may not be as strong as it used to be.
7) Keep doors and drawers closed when not in use to prevent tripping accidents.
By keeping doors and drawers closed and locked, your loved one won’t accidentally turn and bonk their head or trip over a drawer out a bit further than it should be.
8) Wear supportive shoes with good traction, especially when walking outdoors on slippery surfaces.
Indoor shoes with good traction can be really helpful for indoor/garden work. It can help your loved one maintain balance and avoid many hazards that otherwise might have tripped them.
9) Organize items so they are easy to reach to avoid the need for stretched or off-balance movements which could lead to a fall
Finally, bring any frequently used items down from tall cabinets, rearrange rooms in the home if needed, and put the most important things downstairs. Avoiding unnecessary reaching and/or climbing is important for avoiding issues with balance.
4 Tips to Prevent Falls When An Elderly Person Comes to Visit
It’s not always possible to completely prepare your home for an elderly guest. Though when an elderly person comes to visit, it's important to take some precautions to prevent falls.
Here are 4 things you can do before they come to visit:
Make sure all rugs and cords are securely fastened down or moved out of the way. Tape them down if necessary.
Put a nightlight in the bathroom and turn bright lights on.
Remove any obstacles from hallways and living areas that could be tripped over like pet or children’s toys.
If they’re using a cane or walker, make sure it is the correct height and that the handles are not loose.
4 Tips to Help an Elderly Person Stay Healthy and Survive a Fall
Staying fit and healthy is one of the best ways to not only prevent a fall, but also to survive one if it does happen. Here are a few quick tips to do just that:
Help them maintain a healthy weight, as excess weight can put a strain on their joints and increase their risk of falling.
Get them regular exercise, as this will help improve their strength and balance. Tai chi or yoga classes may be particularly beneficial.
Make sure they are taking any medications prescribed by their doctor, as some medications can contribute to impaired balance or vision.
Ask for an evaluation and, potentially, replacement medicines if a medication is contributing to a sense of dizziness.
Slips, trips, and falls are a terrifying prospect, especially when you recognize the significant injury toll they have on the elderly. But by taking some preventative steps, you can reduce or eliminate the risks for your loved one.
For further reading and resources, we invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here. You are also welcome to call us at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you on your caregiving journey.
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Additional Reading: How to Get Paid to Be a Caregiver
If you are a caregiver, we recommend you check out our article about getting paid to be a family caregiver. Becoming a caregiver is expensive–out-of-pocket costs average in the thousands each year for a family caregiver. The state of California offers several paths to receiving at least subsidized assistance, so click here to learn more about how to get paid to be a caregiver.