This past week saw the first day of fall. And when the first day of fall rolls around, so does the annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day, as designated by the National Council on Aging.
But here’s the thing. For seniors, every day needs to be Fall Prevention Awareness Day. Why? Because of these numbers:
- One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year
- Falls are the leading cause of trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults
- Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries annually treated in emergency rooms, including more than 800,000 hospitalizations
So there’s plenty of falling that could use some preventing. Fortunately, there’s a lot you or your loved one can do to avoid adding to those numbers, such as vision checks and balance techniques.
But first and foremost, you can get rid of the hazards that are right there in the home, every hour of every day. Because if it doesn’t take a lot for a senior to fall, it also doesn’t take a lot to remove many opportunities for a senior to fall.
Hazards are everywhere
A quick look around the bedrooms, bathroom, living room and hallways, not to mention stairways, will likely reveal an obstacle course of hazards in the home. Here are some ways to make your home safer:
- Keep boxes, newspapers, and electrical and phone cords out of the hallways
- Keep high-traffic areas free from coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands
- Remove loose rugs from the home, or if not feasible, secure the edges with slip-resistant backing, tacks or double-sided tape
- Rapidly repair loose floorboards
- Keep necessities—clothing, dishes, food—within easy reach
- Clean spills as soon as they happen
- Place non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower
- Consider using a bath or shower seat
Light up your life
An often overlooked method of reducing fall hazards is keeping your home brightly lit.
- Have night lights in the bedroom, bathroom, and hallways
- Place a lamp within reach of the bed
- Maintain clear paths to light switches that aren’t near doorways
- Consider illuminated switches
- Make sure lights are on before ascending or descending stairs
- Store a flashlight in super-easy-to-find places for power outages
Canes and walkers are obvious aids to prevent falls, but there are other implements that can help as well.
- Install handrails for both sides of stairways
- Attach non-slip treads on non-carpeted steps
- Consider additional bathroom safety measures, such as a raised toilet seat, grab bars and a hand-held shower nozzle
Fear of falling, or even a previous fall, doesn’t have to change your life. Through medication management, balance techniques and training, and improved strength, agility and endurance, falls are much more preventable than you may realize.
But step one is not giving falls a head start in your own home.
Sources: National Council on Aging; Mayo Clinic; Lexington Health Network