Reducing fall risk
A safety checklist
Fall prevention tips for your home
As we get older, items in our home that used to be virtually harmless start to pose a greater risk. Carpets, stairs, floors, and even pets can be dangerous. The good news is that many falls can be prevented. Home safety evaluations and modifications can be self-conducted or performed by professional caregivers. In particular, those that are administered by a nurse, physical therapist, or occupational therapist, have been shown to reduce falls risk by nearly 20%.
For seniors, falls in and around the home are the most frequently occurring accident. Falls in the home commonly occur in bathrooms and bedrooms, as well as on stairs. Making a few modifications in the home can prevent dangerous situations, such as slippery floors, poor lighting, loose rugs, raised thresholds, and clutter. Visit each room in the home. Then look at the space objectively and ask: Is this safe? Are there objects or items that present falls risk? If so, there are many ways to create a safer home. The following checklist is designed to help seniors minimize the risk of falling in their home.
Outside your home
- Paint the edges of outdoor steps and any steps that are especially narrow or are higher or lower than the rest.
- Paint outside stairs with a mixture of sand and paint for better traction. Keep outdoor walkways clear and well-lit.
- Clear snow and ice from entrances and sidewalks.
Inside your home
- Remove all extraneous clutter in your house.
- Keep telephone and electrical cords out of pathways.
- Tack rugs and glue vinyl flooring so they lie flat. Remove or replace rugs or runners that tend to slip, or attach nonslip backing.
- Ensure that carpets are firmly attached to the stairs.
- Do not stand on a chair to reach things. Store frequently used objects where you can reach them easily.
Keep a well-lit home
- Have a lamp or light switch that you can easily reach without getting out of bed.
- Use night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
- Keep a flashlight handy.
- Have light switches at both ends of stairs and halls. Install handrails on both sides of stairs.
- Turn on the lights when you go into the house at night.
- Add grab bars in shower, tub and toilet areas.
- Use nonslip adhesive strips or a mat in shower or tub.
- Consider sitting on a bench or stool in the shower.
- Consider using an elevated toilet seat.
Use care walking
- Use helping devices, such as canes, as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Wear nonslip, low-heeled shoes or slippers that fit snugly. Avoid walking around in stocking feet.
And don’t forget…
- Review medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Some drugs, including over-the-counter drugs, can make you drowsy, dizzy and unsteady.
- Discuss safe amounts of alcohol intake with your physician.
- Have your hearing and eyesight tested.
- Inner ear problems can affect balance.
- Vision problems make it difficult to see potential hazards.
- Exercise regularly to improve muscle flexibility, strength, and balance. Talk to your healthcare professional about exercise programs that are right for you.
- If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, sit down or stay seated until your head clears.
- Stand up slowly to avoid unsteadiness.
Gain confidence to maintain your independence
A study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine found that preventing falls and the resulting injuries can reduce or delay the need to move to a long-term care facility.
Causes of falls in and around the home
Health and age-related changes
- Problems with balance
- Slow reflexes
- Poor eyesight
- Use of certain medications
Dangerous situations in the home
- Slippery floors
- Poor lighting
- Electrical cords in pathways
- Loose rugs
- Raised thresholds
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