One out of three American seniors, age 65 and older, will fall this year. With more and more of us choosing to live independently as we get older, falls are a growing concern, in particular because fewer than half who fall will talk to their doctor about it.
With falls being so prevalent, it’s not surprising that it is the number one cause of injuries in seniors, resulting in hip fractures, head and brain injuries, and numerous cuts and bruises. Even when a fall does not result in a serious injury, it can be frightening enough that seniors will avoid many activities for fear of another fall.
Injuries, especially fractures, account for a substantial proportion of Medicare expenditures for persons age 65 and older. Nearly 68% of Medicare spending related to injuries is attributed to fractures. With this enormous cost to both the Medicare system and seniors, it’s clear that fall prevention is essential.
Make Your Home Safe in 7 Simple Steps
Fall prevention starts with a safe living space, where we spend the majority of our time. Whether it’s a slippery bath tub, stairs, or trip hazards, the most common causes of falls are where we feel most secure, in own home.
It isn’t necessary to remodel your home to make it safe. In fact, a few minor changes can make a home significantly safer and senior friendly. Here are seven changes we recommend:
- Remove clutter. A neat and tidy home is easier to navigate. In particular, keep your hallways, staircases and walk areas around furniture free of clutter. Open up areas around furniture making it easier to get around.
- Remove trip hazards. While removing clutter, examine every area of the house for anything that could create a trip hazard. Look for, then repair or replace, slippery throw rugs, loose carpet, or anything on the floor that may stick up.
- Install safety devices. As we age, grab bars and handrails are essential for using the toilet, getting in and out of the bathtub, and using stairs without injuring yourself. Handrails in long hallways are also beneficial. Have a family member help with this, or hire a handyman, if necessary.
- Make the home nonslip. Bathtubs, showers, wet floors, and wet or icy porches are extremely dangerous for seniors. when wet. Slip hazards are easily remedied with nonslip mats.
- Bright light. Dim lighting is a serious hazard. Install or update lighting where needed to improve illumination where you walk. Consider adding night-lights in bathrooms, hallways and stairways for better guidance at night.
- Live on a single level. Even with guardrails installed, stairs are a significant fall hazard. The best solution is to live on one level. If it’s not possible to live on a single level, consider a stair lift.
- Proper clothing. In addition to the home changes listed above, it’s important to make sure you’re not a slip hazard yourself. Loose clothing, as an example, easily catches on furniture, counters or under your feet. Comfort is important, but properly hemmed and better-fitting clothes are less likely to create a trip hazard. Also, don’t forget your feet. Socks are comfortable, but they increase the risk or slipping or breaking a toe. You can prevent falls at home by wearing shoes or non-slip socks.
Alert Someone When You Do Fall
Living independently in our senior years doesn’t mean doing it all alone. Technology has come a long way in the medical alert system industry. Specifically, all of the top medical alert systems feature a fall detection capability. Plus, these systems are no longer confined to home use. So, if you’re an active senior, you can live with the security of knowing that help is a button-push away when you need it. Check out our comprehensive medical alert system review.
Tips for Caretakers
If you care for a senior in your home, be sure to take into account the potential causes of falling, including chronic conditions, physical fitness, medications or vision problems. Knowing the greatest risks can help you more effectively prevent your loved one from falling.
The Council on Aging offers the following helpful tips:
- Be sure your loved one gets regular eye and hearing checkups.
- Encourage older loved ones to attend balance and exercise programs.
- Encourage seniors to talk to their health care providers to assess fall risk.
- Notice if they have difficulties standing, or if they are holding onto walls or furniture while walking.
- Stay informed about your loved one’s current health conditions, and whether they are experiencing any balance, hearing or vision changes.
- Talk about the medications they are taking and any side effects.