Use our checklist to fall-proof your house and keep your aging loved ones safe.
- Falls can happen at any time, but there are certain preventative measures you can take to ensure you and your family are protected from injury.
- The best way to prevent a fall is by maintaining good health and fitness.
- Certain changes can be made around the house to improve the safety of older adults.
- You can also purchase medical alert devices to help keep your family safe.
From an early age most of us have been taught to get back up if we fall — a task easier said than done, especially for those getting up in age.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the main cause of injury and injury death for people 65 and older. The CDC estimates that one out of four aging adults experiences a fall in the U.S. each year.
Fall-related injuries are costly and traumatic. They can reduce someone’s independence, make them unfit for work, or leave them disabled — and with over 36 million falls reported annually, they occur far too often.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to protect yourself and your aging loved ones from injuries related to falls.
In this article, we’ll go into detail about fall prevention and what you can do to make your own home — or the home of a loved one — safer to live in.
Why is Fall Prevention Important?
Each year, more than 800,000 people are hospitalized due to falls — and 300,000 of these patients are older folks with hip injuries.
If the upward trend continues, the CDC predicts that by 2030, seven fall deaths will occur in the U.S. each hour.
Falls can result in costly trips to the emergency room, with the CDC reporting nonfatal fall injuries costing $50 billion and fatal fall injuries costing $754 billion each year.
What Are the Leading Risk Factors for Falling Among Older Adults?
There are several reasons any person could fall, but there are certain habits, behaviors, and characteristics that increase an older person’s chances of falling.
Some of these risk factors include:
According to World Health Organization (WHO), aging adults are most at risk of dying or sustaining serious injuries from falls.
This is largely due to physical and cognitive changes that occur in old age.
Past fall injuries
An older person who has fallen before and injured themselves, is more likely to fall again unless they put measures in place to prevent this.
Decreased strength and fitness
Over the years, people grow weaker and stop doing the physical activities they’ve once enjoyed.
Aging adults who’ve fallen and injured themselves in the past are also reluctant to engage in physical activities that could result in another injury — and so they grow weaker, which makes them more prone to falls.
Sight and hearing impairments
Eyesight and hearing are both associated with balance. If your eyes and ears no longer work properly, it can affect your ability to walk.
Medications and blood pressure fluctuations can cause dizziness which in turn makes it difficult to maintain your balance.
If you’re on medications that have dizziness listed as a side effect, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. Some medications that may cause dizzy spells in older adults include:
- Anti-seizure drugs
- ACE inhibitors
- Diabetes medication
Clothing and shoe choices
Footwear — such as high heels or shoes with laces — and clothing you can trip in — such as long skirts or robes — can cause falls.
Clothing with cords or strings are potential tripping hazards and should be avoided.
Fall Prevention Checklist: What Can I Do to Keep Myself and My Family Safe?
Prevention is better than cure — this applies to falling, too.
Although there are various technological gadgets and systems you can use — such as surveillance cameras and fall detection devices — it is ultimately better to prevent the fall from happening than to deal with the consequences afterward.
It’s better to take the right steps to protect yourself or your parent who has decided to age in place from falling.
Completely eliminating the risk of an injury is impossible — falls happen. However, there are many things that can be done to significantly reduce the risk of fall-related injuries.
We’ve outlined some basic steps in our fall prevention checklist below:
Take care of your health
Prioritizing your health can help you stay strong and fit — which is the best way to decrease the risk of falls.
Following the steps below will help you or your loved one avoid serious injuries.
Don’t skip the routine checkups
Regularly going for checkups can help you detect health issues — especially changes in blood pressure, and impaired vision and hearing — which could impact your balance.
A doctor or physical therapist can also help you gain a better understanding of your or your loved one’s needs.
Eat well and stay active
You can prevent falls by simply investing in your health and well-being.
When you enjoy a balanced diet rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, you can maintain healthy muscle mass and have enough energy to prioritize your fitness.
Regular exercise is great, but any sort of physical activity — including chores — can help an aging adult maintain their strength and independence.
However, there is also targeted training that improves core strength and balance. Some of these exercises include:
- Tai Chi
- Leg lifts
Perform a fall risk assessment
How do you know how likely a loved one is to fall and injure themselves? You can visit them and do a fall risk assessment.
When you visit your loved one’s home, pay special attention to the following:
- Can they easily move around the house and complete daily tasks?
- Do they hold onto the walls, countertops, etc. for balance?
- Can they lift themselves easily and move from one place to another without assistance
- Can they reach things like cupboards, countertops, and light switches (and if they can’t reach them, is a remodel necessary or will a step stool suffice?)
- Do they remember to take the correct medication at the right time?
- Are they able to make it to the bathroom on time?
- Are the living spaces well lit? For example, is there a night light that can be used if they need to get up at night?
- Would they benefit from a medical alert system?
- What changes need to be made around the house for them to be safe there?
Once you’ve made an assessment of your own, it’s also a great idea to call in a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) who can help you remodel the home so your loved one can safely age in place.
To find a local CAPS, contact the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) at 800-368-5242.
Remove tripping hazards
An easy way to prevent falls is to remove environmental hazards that can cause accidents. You would have identified many of these hazards during the fall risk assessment mentioned above.
Some common things that can increase the risk of falling include:
- Cluttered living spaces
- Uneven carpeting or carpets that have not been properly secured
- Low coffee tables
- Carpeted stairs
- Stairs that are too steep
- Throw rugs
- Electrical cords (especially extension cables across walkways)
- Uneven flooring
Install good lighting
If you can see where you’re walking, you’re less likely to trip or stumble into things.
Good lighting is essential to any fall prevention strategy, and a recent study found that older people who live in houses with better lighting experience fewer falls.
To decrease the chances of a fall, you must ensure that:
- Indoor and outdoor spaces are well lit
- There is easy access to light switches
- There is a night light in the bedroom and other spaces that require it
- Faulty lights or fused light bulbs are replaced as needed
Make your entrances safe
Creating limited mobility entrances are a great way to keep aging loved ones safe.
Some changes you can make include:
- Widening entrance-ways to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers
- Installing wheelchair ramps with handrails or guardrails
- Creating entrances with zero thresholds
- Using non-slip flooring at entrance-ways
- Replacing doorknobs with levers that are easier to operate by folks with arthritis
- Securing floor runners near the entryway
- Ensuring that the doorbell or intercom is at the correct height to be reached by people who use wheelchairs or have trouble raising their arms
Focus on individual spaces
Now that your entrance-ways are clear, you’ve installed proper lighting, and all environmental hazards have been removed, it’s time to look at individual spaces.
Start with the changes that are easiest.
A kitchen is a place where many accidents and injuries can happen. You can make it a safer place to work and eat by doing the following:
- Ensuring that items are within reach — nothing should be able to spill or fall onto your head
- Cleaning up spills immediately
- Installing nonslip mats and wearing nonslip shoes
- Ensuring that the kitchen floor is even
- Conducting regular tripping hazard inspections
The bathroom is another area where slips and falls are commonplace. Soapy shower floors and slick tiles can cause serious injury, especially to older folks.
Statistics obtained from the CDC show that around 21.8 million patients sustained nonfatal injuries in 2008, with most of these injuries occurring in bathrooms.
To decrease the chances of fall injuries in the bathroom, you can:
- Install handrails or grab bars in the shower, and near the toilet and bathtub
- Use non-slip mats or strips in the shower
- Keep the floor dry at all times
- Install a raised toilet seat
- Have a walk-in shower installed
- Use a sturdy chair to sit on during showers
A bedroom should be a space where aging adults feel at ease. The last thing they should be worried about when they get into bed is their safety.
To make a bedroom safe for aging adults you can:
- Invest in bed risers for getting in and out of the bed more easily
- Remove all obstacles and clutter to decrease the risk of tripping
- Ensure that there’s adequate lighting at all times — a bedside lamp is a great solution
- Ensure that the walkway between the bedroom and bathroom is free of hazards (or invest in a commode chair if they have to go during the night)
Equipment and Devices that Can Keep You Safe
Fall-proofing your house may not be enough. You may want to invest in equipment that can protect you and your family, too.
Some of the devices listed below may not necessarily prevent falls, but they can help decrease the damage caused by them:
A cane or walker can help an aging adult get around safely, while a wheelchair can help those who need additional support.
Medical alert systems
An at-home or mobile medical alert system can give an aging adult and their families peace of mind.
Some of these devices have great features like fall detection and GPS tracking, but most of them allow for two-way communication between the person wearing it and an emergency responder or family member.
If you’re curious about medical alert systems, read our guide on how to choose one for yourself or someone you love.
Cameras and motion sensors
Installing motion sensors and cameras in key points around the house can help make an aging adult feel safer and give their family members or primary caregivers direct access to them at any time.
If the idea of installing cameras seems a bit too invasive, motion sensors may be a better option.
Where Can I Learn More about Keeping My Loved Ones Safe?
Has your mother or father had a fall recently? Perhaps you believe they may be at risk.
You can ensure that help will always be just a button push away. The LogicMark line of medical alert devices gives aging adults direct access to emergency services or caregivers. Explore the full line of products here.