What you need to know about preventing falls
How do you know if you have good balance? You are able to control and maintain your body’s position while moving or remaining still; you can walk without staggering; get up from a chair without falling; climb stairs without tripping; and bend over without tumbling. When you do not maintain good balance, you are at risk for falling.
More than one out of four adults aged 65 and older fall each year in the United States. It is estimated that one out of every five falls result in a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury. Additionally, falls are the most common cause of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Although falls are more common in older adults, they are not solely due to the effects of aging. Falls can be prevented. There are a number of risk factors that increase with age, but they can be changed or modified to prevent falls. Most falls are due to a combination of risk factors, such as lower body weakness and vision changes. There are some simple adjustments you can make to prevent falls:
- Exercise regularly. It will make you stronger and improve your balance and coordination.
- Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about all medications you take, even over-the-counter medicines, which may make you dizzy or drowsy.
- Have your vision checked at least once a year by an eye doctor. Poor vision can increase your risk of falling.
- Wear shoes inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
In addition, there are several changes you can make at home to prevent falls:
- Make sure you have a clear path through each room in your home. Move furniture if necessary.
- Remove area rugs.
- Pick up things that are on the floor. Always keep the floor free from clutter.
- Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so you cannot trip over them. Install additional outlets if necessary.
Stairs and Steps
- Pick up things that are on the stairs. Always keep the stairs free from clutter.
- Fix loose or uneven steps.
- Install an overhead light and light switch at the top and bottom of the stairs. Light switches with built-in nightlights are available.
- Make sure the carpet is firmly attached to every step, or remove the carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads on the stairs.
- Fix loose handrails or install new ones. Make sure there are handrails on both sides of the stairs and are the same length as the stairs.
- Move items you use regularly to the lower shelves of upper cabinets. Keep things you use often within reach.
- If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool.
- Put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower.
- Install grab bars inside the tub or shower and next to the toilet.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent or LED bulbs. Install additional lighting if necessary.
- Place a lamp close to the bed where it is easy to reach.
- Add nightlights so you can see where you are walking. Nightlights that turn on by themselves after dark are available.