Just the thought of your 80-year-old mother or father taking a tumble makes you really wince, doesn’t it? Or, for that matter—what if that 80-year-old person is you? The idea of falling is certainly not a pleasant thought. The good news is you can help prevent many falls with a few simple changes. Here’s what you can do for yourself or the elder in your family.
See the doctor
If you’ve had a fall:
- Discuss this in as much detail as you can with your doctor. Have a conversation about your health conditions and how your body feels when you’re walking.1
- Make a list of all your medications—both prescription and over the counter—as well as supplements. Your doctor can review this list for potential side effects or interactions that could increase your risk of falling.1 Of course I’d be glad to go over this with you as well.
- Ask whether an emergency call system might be a good idea. These bracelets or pendants allow you to contact an emergency dispatcher in case of a fall. Some even have motion sensors that can tell if you’ve fallen and alert emergency services, even if you’re unconscious.2
Address house hazards
Six out of 10 falls happen at home3—and accidents in the home account for about one-third all injuries in seniors.4 Making simple changes around the house can greatly reduce the risk of falls:
- Remove clutter, and move loose cords, pet bowls, plants, and other small items from high-traffic areas.
- Secure carpets and replace throw rugs with nonslip ones. Attached to your throw rugs? Then at least affix them to the floor with a sticky rubber adhesive.4
- Clean up wet spills right away and use nonskid wax on waxed floors.
- Put within easy reach dishes or other items used most often.
- Add nonslip mats in the tub or shower, if you haven’t already.1
- Improve lighting, as needed, especially near entrances, stairways, and outdoor walkways. Use the highest recommended wattage. Install nightlights in bathroom, bedroom, hallways, and kitchen. Put a flashlight by the bed.3
If you live in snow country, spread sand or salt on icy surfaces. But, whenever possible, avoid the outdoors during the nastiest of weather.
Add assistive devices
You’ll find some of the following devices in our store. We can also provide referrals for companies that will install devices in your home.
- Ask the doctor whether a cane or walker is a good idea.
- Install grab bars in the shower and tub and next to the toilet. Also install handrails on both sides of stairs.
- Add a raised toilet seat or one with armrests.
- Buy a solid plastic seat and hand-held shower nozzle for the shower or tub.1
Has a loved one taken a fall, but has trouble taking safety advice from you? Or, are you the one who’s fallen, and you’re feeling as though your family is a little overbearing? The doctor may suggest having a home health nurse or occupational therapist pay a visit to assess the situation.3 Sometimes it’s easier to hear advice from an unbiased observer.
Just remember: taking steps to prevent falls cannot only prevent falls. It also improves the chances of staying independent as you grow older.
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
1. Mayo Clinic: “Fall prevention: 6 tips to prevent falls.” Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/fall-prevention/HQ00657/METHOD=print Accessed March 7, 2013.
2. Best of the Web Senior Housing: “Senior-Proofing Your or Your Parent’s Home.” Available at: http://seniorhousing.botw.org/senior-proofing-the-home/ Accessed March 7, 2013.
3. NIH Senior Health: “Fall Proofing Your Home.” Available at: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/falls/homesafety/01.html Accessed March 7, 2013.
4. Dr. Marion: “‘Elder Proofing’ Your Home.” Available at: http://drmarion.com/news/elder_proofing_your_home Accessed March 7, 2013.