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Home Safety: How to Reduce the Risk of Falls

As we grow older, we all become more prone to falling. Among older adults, one out of five falls causes a serious injury. Causes may include physical reasons such as strength/dexterity, side effects of medications, health issues such as rushing to the bathroom during an incontinence episode, or clutter around the house. There are many ways to prevent falls, but seven simple strategies are outlined below:

7 Strategies to Reduce Fall Risk:

1. Make appointments with your doctor and prepare to answer questions.

What medications are you taking?

  • Make a list of your medications, or bring them to your appointment. The doctor can review the medications with you for side effects that could increase your likelihood to fall.

Have you fallen before?

  • Record any details of recent falls you have had, no matter what caused them. Your doctor may be able to identify specific fall prevention strategies for you that are compatible with your lifestyle.

Could your health conditions cause you to fall?

  • Certain types of eye or ear disorders can increase your chances of falling. Rushing to the toilet to avoid an incontinence episode is also a common cause of falls. Your doctor may ask questions about your sight, hearing and bathroom habits, as well as evaluate your strength, balance and gait.

Is your home environment adding to your fall risk? 

  • Loose rugs, clutter in high-traffic areas, and dim lighting can all contribute to falls.

2. Stay active.

  • Staying active can reduce your risk of falls because it will improve your strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.
  • Your doctor may also recommend seeing a physical therapist who will create a customized exercise and movement program focused on improving your balance, flexibility and strength.

3. Wear smart shoes.

  • Wear properly fitted and sensible shoes to prevent slipping, skidding or stumbling. This goes for indoors as well! If you prefer to go barefoot or wear socks around your home, consider a pair of well-fitting indoor slippers with rubber soles.

4. Remove household hazards.

  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks and potted plants from walkways.
  • Secure rugs with tacks, double sided tape, or Velcro.
  • Repair loose flooring and carpet.
  • Clean spills immediately.
  • Store clothing/food/dishes/cleaning supplies etc. within reaching distance. Avoid storing everyday items in cupboards out of reach.

5. Lighten up.

Keep your house illuminated with:

  • Lamps in each room
  • Well-lit stairwells, including any outdoor stairs
  • Nightlights (particularly between bedroom and bathroom for nighttime trips)
  • Flashlights

6. Use assistance devices.

  • Canes/walkers
  • Handrail on stairs
  • Nonslip grip on stair edges
  • Nonslip material on hardwood floors
  • Nonslip mats in bathtubs
  • Raised toilet seat with armrests
  • Bath seat for sitting when showering
  • Handheld shower nozzle

7. Do a 360° safety assessment of your loved one’s home.

Keep these three factors in mind:

  • Lighting: Increase lighting throughout the house. Add lamps where needed and try increasing lightbulb wattage in common areas. Make lighting easily available for someone who gets up in the middle of the night.
  • Stairs: Ensure there are handrails on at least one side of the stairwell. If possible, put handrails on both sides so that your loved one can hold on with their dominant hand in both directions.
  • Bathrooms: Install handrails or grips in the bathtub and near the toilet. Invest in a handheld shower nozzle and a bath seat so (s)he can shower while sitting.

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