Submitted by Jennifer Mobley, PT and Margie Barnes, PT. Both are Upland Hills Home Health Physical Therapists with over 50 years combined experience working with the older population.
Did you know that 1 in 4 older adults fall every year? Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and most common source of trauma related admissions to hospitals. 6 of 10 falls happen at home.
What can you do to prevent falls at home?
- Keep pathways clear of clutter, furniture and throw rugs. Rugs can catch on your shoes or on a walker and can also slip when you go to step on them. Clutter such as newspapers on the floor can be a very big fall risk as you can easily slip on them.
- Install grab bars and sturdy railings on stairs in home and at entry.
It is best to have 2 railings in any stairways that can be reached by both hands. Avoid carrying large objects up and down stairs. Slide items instead. You can attach a rope to a laundry basket and drag it upstairs instead of trying to carry it.
- Ensure you have adequate lighting. Most people tend to be very dependent on their vision to maintain their balance. Night lights should be used. Consider having walls and flooring in light, soft colors to allow better natural lighting as well.
- Wear supportive nonskid shoes. Being stable and using any prescribed orthotics is essential for good balance. If you cannot get your shoes on temporarily (e.g. swelling in feet), obtain non-skid socks. If you have difficulty getting a good fit with footwear, consider seeing a podiatrist. Custom shoes can be fabricated by an orthotist. Foot health is important in reducing fall risk.
- If a walker or cane has been recommended, use it! If you need a device due to mobility difficulties, use it consistently. Reaching for walls and furniture for support is less safe and limits where you can walk. There is a variety of walkers and canes available to meet your needs. A physical therapist can determine what is best for you.
Other things you can do to prevent falls include:
- Have your vision checked yearly. Wear glasses as prescribed to increase acuity, decrease glare and help with depth perception.
- Have your prescriptions reviewed by your doctor, nurse or pharmacist as some medications have been linked to increased fall risk. There may be a better medication that provides the same benefits with less side effects.
- Modify your home environment to increase ease of mobility and safety. Consider a walk-in shower, high toilets, widened doorways, sliding door entry to tight spaces, or move furniture arrangements to keep open pathways. Maximize lighting.
- If you are having difficulty getting around, have a history of falls or need help getting started, ask your doctor for a referral for Physical Therapy.
- STAY ACTIVE! Join an exercise group, walk, go out with friends. Socialize!