According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one out of four older adults fall each year. While many falls don’t cause injuries, many do – in fact, over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury. Falls are typically caused by a combination of intrinsic factors (e.g., poor vision, advanced age, postural hypotension, balance problems, muscle weakness, and chronic conditions) and extrinsic factors (e.g., dim lighting, slippery surfaces, or a lack of handrails). There are some things you can do to help address and treat the intrinsic factors, such as having your vision and hearing tested, getting exercise, and talking to your doctor about your concerns. However, you may be able to more easily control the extrinsic factors around your home to help prevent falls. You don’t have to fear falling. Walk around your home with this fall prevention checklist and talk to a handyman, electrician, contractor, or loved one about making some of these adjustments in your home as part of your new fall reduction program.
- Clear walk paths by rearranging furniture and picking up objects or clutter from the floors in each room.
- Prevent rugs from slipping with a non-slip backing or remove them altogether if too slippery.
- Coil or tape cords and wires close to the wall.
- Paint door sills, the bottom portion of your door frame, a different color or place reflective tape on it to increase visibility.
Stairs and Steps
- Keep objects off the stairs.
- Fix loose or uneven steps.
- Make sure there are handrails on both sides of the stairs or fix loose ones.
- Illuminate the top and bottom of the stairs with bright light bulbs or have an electrician put in a new light and switch at the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Make sure carpeting is firmly attached to every step or remove the carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads.
- Increase stair visibility by adding color contrast to steps, handrail, wall, and floor at top and bottom of staircase.
- Move items that are difficult to reach to lower cabinets and shelves about waist high.
- Check that your step stool is steady with a bar to hold on to. Don’t use a chair as a step stool.
- Place a lamp close to the bed that is easy to reach.
- Put in a night-light to navigate a dark room at night. Some nightlights turn on automatically after dark.
- Put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower and outside on the bathroom floor.
- Install a grab bar inside the tub and next to the toilet.
- Use bathroom safety equipment where needed, such as over the toilet, for safety and assistance in transfers.
Preparing Ahead for Falls
Sometimes a fall is inevitable, but there are things you can do to be prepared if it happens. Allow yourself easy access to a telephone at all times to call for help if you can’t get up, and consider wearing a fall detection device or purchasing a medical alert system. Make sure you are wearing comfortable, rubber-gripped shoes, and using a walking aid, or Durable Medical Equipment (DME) like a cane or walker, if necessary.
During your Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) covered by Medicare, talk to your doctor or health care provider about your physical concerns and discuss how to reduce your risk for falls. Be sure to mention medicines you are taking, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, antidepressants, or over-the-counter medicines that may affect balance. Once you have a better understanding of your health and certain risk factors, you can be more aware of how to incorporate those into your fall prevention plan.