One of the most significant risks for older adults is falling at home. Those older than 60 years are typically most at risk for falls, and the risk of fatality increases exponentially with age. Unfortunately, falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths worldwide. Experts have estimated that 684,000 individuals die yearly from falls, and over 3 million older adults receive emergency treatment each year for fall injuries.
As a result, fall prevention for the elderly at home is essential and can save you worry, money and potential health complications in the future.
Why Is Fall Prevention Important?
Successfully preventing falls in the elderly is critical for their safety, can help sustain their autonomy and help avoid future hospital admissions for injuries. By recognizing the importance of fall prevention, you can maintain your independence and your ability to get around on your own.
Experiencing a fall may result in:
- Injury: There can be a high risk of injury from a fall that could require rehabilitation. A single fall can cause broken bones such as wrist, arm, ankle and hip fractures, and cause head injuries that may prove severe and even result in brain damage. A severe fall can even result in death.
- Multiple falls: Once an older person falls, the risk of future falls increases. Even a minor fall can result in a chain reaction of continual falls due to a lack of confidence in moving around. Many people become afraid after falling once and become weaker over time, thus increasing their chances of falling again.
- Reduced independence: As a result of falls, older adults may experience difficulty living on their own and require assistance with everyday activities. Those who have fallen in the past may avoid walking, shopping and participating in social activities. A lack of independence can have a broader impact on family caregivers if their loved ones require more intensive and regular daily care and observation.
Top Risk Factors for Falls
When assessing your risk of falling or determining what you can do to prevent future falls, evaluating the potential risk factors you face is essential to prevent falling at home. Some common causes of falls may include:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Difficulty walking or balancing
- Lower body weakness
- Vision problems
- Foot pain
- Inadequate footwear
- Home hazards
- Certain medicines, like antidepressants, sedatives and tranquilizers
A combination of these risk factors is most often responsible for falls, and the greater number of risk factors a person has, the higher the chance they have of falling. However, you can also help mitigate these risk factors by making simple changes to your everyday life.
10 Tips for Preventing Falls at Home
Here are 10 of our top tips to reduce your fall risk at home.
1. Stay Active
Completing strength and balance exercises can help keep you sharp and protect you against potential risk factors for falls. Consider practicing tai chi and taking time to walk around each day to help you strengthen your legs and improve your balance.
2. Talk to Your Doctor
Ask your doctor or health care provider to evaluate your risk of falling and advise you about specific actions you can take to prevent future falls. A doctor can also help you review your prescription and over-the-counter medications to see if any of them cause dizziness or sleepiness. Consider asking your physician about taking vitamin D supplements to improve your muscle strength and function.
3. Have Your Eyes Checked
A lack of visibility can also increase your risk of falling at home. By having an eye doctor check your eyes once a year and updating your eyeglasses as needed, you can improve your line of sight and avoid more trip hazards. It's also essential to keep in mind that bifocal or progressive lenses may make objects appear closer or farther away than they do in reality.
4. Wear Shoes
When it comes to preventing falls at home, proper footwear is a must. Socks can be a major slipping hazard as they prevent you from gripping on smooth floors. Wearing shoes with thin, hard soles that grip the floor can help you reduce your risk of falling significantly. Ensure you can secure your shoes to your feet so they don't slip off, which presents another tripping hazard.
5. Make Sure You Have Enough Light
Another excellent way to prevent falls at home is to ensure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs. An illuminated home will help you see through the dark and avoid tripping and falling due to poor visibility. Installing better and brighter lighting options will go a long way to preventing falls at home in the elderly.
6. Clear Clutter
In addition to keeping your house properly lit, making sure your rooms are neat and free of clutter will help you avoid potential tripping areas. Things like tucking away extension cords, addressing tripping hazards, removing excess furniture and clearing open areas of your home will enable you to create a walkable path.
7. Add Handles and Grab Bars
Placing handrails and railings on both sides of the stairs and throughout hallways can help you keep your balance and prevent falls when moving from floor to floor. Likewise, handles and grab bars are crucial safety devices for navigating your home. Installing grab bars in the bathroom will help you step into and out of the bathtub and get on and off the toilet without risking injury.
8. Install Non-Slip Surfaces
Both bathroom and kitchen floors can prove especially dangerous when wet. Adding non-slip mats or decals to the bathtub, shower and kitchen floors and around the outside of the shower and sink can help mitigate the risk of falls in the elderly on slippery surfaces. Installing a shower chair with a non-slip seat and rubber-tipped feet can also help prevent falls when transferring in and out of the bath.
9. Spend Time on One Floor
For older adults, stairs can present a significant falling hazard even with proper safety precautions and guardrails. Limiting your trips up and down the stairs can reduce your risk of falling, but it may be prudent to downsize to a one-level home for safer in-home navigation.
If you aren't interested in downsizing, consider installing a stairlift to make navigating multiple floors safer and more accessible. If you have a large bottom floor in your house with a bathroom, you may want to spend most of your time down there to reduce the time going up and down the steps.
10. Try Physical Therapy
Lastly, physical therapy practices
and occupational therapy exercises
can help you hone your strength and mobility and keep you on your feet. If you're concerned that a lack of range of motion will limit your movement or cause a fall, physical therapy will help you take charge of your activity with confidence.
There's a wide range of treatments available to help restore function to almost any area of the body, including your back, hips and feet. With consistent therapy, everyday tasks become more manageable so you can regain your independence. These practices and exercises target the root of the problem, strengthening your muscles and joints to alleviate pain and increase your range of motion.
Consider Physical Therapy to Improve Mobility
Physical therapy services will help substantially in fall prevention at home in the elderly. At Blue Sky Therapy, we provide one-on-one care and personalized wellness plans suited to your goals. These versatile services include both on-site and in-home physical and occupational therapy
to assist you in restoring and maintaining your health from the comfort of your own home.
To take charge of reducing your risk of falling at home, you can contact us
today for more information or to schedule an appointment.
About Blue Sky Therapy
Blue Sky Therapy delivers innovative physical, occupational, and speech therapy services in skilled nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health care, in-home therapy, and outpatient therapy clinics. Blue Sky Therapy owns and operates nine outpatient clinics in Ohio, Florida, and Texas. Ohio locations: Akron, Mansfield, Marion, and Warren. Florida locations: Bonita Springs and Naples. Texas locations: Aubrey, Denton, Sanger.
Outpatient services are offered in three different settings: In-clinic, In-home, and via Teletherapy which allows for therapists to work with patients virtually at home instead of in the clinic.