How to Prevent Accidental Falls in the Home
Did you know that 25% of US residents over the age of 65 reports falling each year? 6 in every 10 of those falls occurred in their own home. Unintentional injuries are the seventh leading cause of death among elderly adults, and falls account for the most significant percentage of these injuries. The risk of dying from a fall or complications from a fall increases another 45% in people over the age of 85 and in people who live alone with no way to call for help after a fall.
With such harrowing statistics in mind, many people wonder how to prevent falls around the home in the first place. Here are a few easy ways to make your home safer for you or your loved ones aging in place.
People on average lose about 30 percent of their muscle power between ages 50 and 70. You don't have to do anything crazy, just enough to get your body moving and help with your balance as you age. Tai Chi, yoga, swimming, and walking are all great, low-stress options that will help you improve your balance to help lower your risk of falling by 10% to 20%. If you exercise more than 3 hours per week, you are 39% less likely to fall! Be sure to work on your quads and add some strength and resistance training, too.
Get your vision checked
Poor vision can make you more likely to suffer a fall in the event you trip on something you can't see. Vision gets worse as we age, so it's important to regularly get your eyes checked to ensure your glasses or contact lenses are working correctly. Research shows that glasses put you more at risk than contact lenses or no glasses at all because they make it difficult for you to see the area around your feet at all times. Wearing glasses can make it easy to miss a step up or trip over a crack in the sidewalk. Switching to contacts from glasses could lower your risk of falling by 40%.
Review your medications
Lots of medications have side effects like dizziness, and many medications have been linked to falls, including sleep aids, over the counter pain relievers and blood pressure medications. Drugs can also interact with each other in negative ways which can cause fluctuations in your blood pressure and make you feel unsteady on your feet. Talk to your doctor if you ever feel lightheaded upon standing. Sometimes it's all in the dose!
Wear better shoes around the house
Research has shown that people are more likely to fall at home when they walk around with socks or slippers (or barefoot) instead of rubber-soled shoes. Try to avoid slip-on shoes and only use sneakers that prevent slipping that you can lace up or velcro on the foot. It's also a good idea to get your feet measured again since aging feet change size and tend to flatten out.
Make sure the cane or walker you use is the right size
Canes and walkers are great for helping you prevent a fall, but only if they fit correctly. Incorrectly fitted canes and walkers can actually make you more likely to stumble or fall. If you have a cane or walker, take it to a physical therapist who can help you get it fitted to your exact measurements and learn how to use it correctly.
Get checked if you're dizzy
When we age, many of us begin to suffer from dizziness thanks to age-related changes in the inner ear that can cause vertigo and other unpleasant feelings like nausea and lightheadedness. Dizziness can cause a fall upon standing up too quickly, so if you're dizzy be sure to go to the doctor and get it taken care of.
Make your home safer
The home is full of tripping hazards. Throw rugs, electrical cords, staircases, and poor lighting can put you or your loved one at risk. It's a good idea to go through the home and declutter wherever possible. Install handrails to staircases, near the toilet and the shower. Tuck electrical cords away so they can't be tripped over. Use brighter light bulbs so you can see better at night, and put a nightlight in the hallway or bathroom. You can also take extra precautions like mounting the Emergency Wall Communicator at the foot of the stairs and near the shower so that you can call for help if you do fall.
Get a personal emergency response system and wear a PERS device
Falls are responsible for 30,000 senior deaths every year. In many cases, the person who fell was alone at the time and couldn't get up to get to a phone to call for help. If the thought of you or your mom or dad laying hurt on the floor for hours until someone gets home to help them or even possibly dying there from their injuries without being able to call for help bothers you, a PERS device can make all the difference. Personal Emergency Response Systems are designed to be worn around the neck, in a pocket or attached to a belt loop so you can call for help whenever you might need it while you are at home. Some PERS devices (like the emergency wall communicator) can be mounted in high-risk areas of the house to make getting help more accessible. Other devices like the Notifi911+ can be taken anywhere you can pick up cell service, making it easy to get help on the go. It's crucial to keep the device on your person at all times, though. If you need some help convincing a loved one to wear a PERS device, check out this post.