Injuries resulting from falls are the leading source of hospital visits for the elderly. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the top cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in seniors over 65. Many falls are entirely preventable, though, with a few changes to lifestyle and environment. It’s not just about making a few adjustments to a home, though. Seniors should also take steps to improve their overall health if they want to prevent falls. With a little planning and some effort, seniors can be safer and more independent in their everyday lives.
Preventing Falls: Making Changes at Home
There are lots of steps seniors and their families can take to make the home environment less dangerous. Here are a few great suggestions:
- Improve Lighting: Many of us don’t realize how important good lighting is to preventing falls. Family members can add or change light fixtures, or simply change bulbs, to increase visibility and help seniors see potential dangers more easily.
- Secure Carpets and Rugs: Make sure that the edges of carpets and rugs are fastened in place. Get rid of any loose, slippery rugs, and replace them with mats designed to increase traction and reduce the chances of slipping.
- Adapt Bathrooms: Bathroom accidents are one of the most common fall injuries for the elderly. A few basic modifications can help lessen the risk of falls, though. Try putting a bathing chair in the bathtub and grab rails near the toilet. Slip-resistant mats – both in and out of the tub – are also a good idea.
- Make Kitchen Fixes: In the kitchen, replace slippery rugs with stable mats to increase traction. Make sure frequently used food items and equipment are easily accessible to avoid reaching or climbing. And, make sure to use non-slip cleaning products rather than slick wax when cleaning kitchen floors.
- Safety on the Stairs: Consider adding handrails to stairs and replacing slippery carpet with specially designed non-slip tread mats.
- Change Your Footwear: Get rid of flat-bottomed slippers and instead wear comfortable shoes designed to provide increased traction and ankle support.
Preventing Falls: Improving Your Health
In addition to modifying your home environment, there are a number of steps seniors can take to improve their own health and make themselves less likely to fall.
- Get Regular Vision Checks: Many adults underestimate the importance of good vision in staying safe in the home. Ensuring eyeglass prescriptions are up to date is an easy way to help seniors see better and avoid obstacles.
- Add Exercise or Physical Therapy to Your Routine: Regular exercise to improve strength and mobility can help decrease the likelihood of a fall. Some great options to improve core strength for relatively healthy seniors are gentle yoga or aquatic fitness classes. Supervised physical therapy following surgery or illness can also be beneficial, helping patients regain mobility and confidence.
- Manage Chronic Conditions: Supervised gentle exercise and electrical stimulation therapy for chronic conditions like COPD and congestive heart failure can make patients more resilient.
- Review Medications: Seniors and family members can help make sure medications are being taken as prescribed and are not causing dizziness or “brain fog.” If a medication is causing disorientation, consult the doctor about the side effects immediately.
Preventing Falls: Occupational Therapy Can Help
After joint-replacement surgery, occupational therapy can be key to preventing falls. Many patients are weak following surgery and need to relearn basic tasks, including walking, picking up objects, bending over, bathing, and using the toilet. A high-quality occupational therapy program can help seniors adapt safely following surgery, from learning how to use a walker or cane to using tools to pick up objects. These very basic adaptations taught by skilled professionals can make a world of difference in preventing falls during and after the recovery process.
Preventing Falls: Staying Healthy, Staying Safe
There are many actions you can take to stay safer and healthier. By adding a few handrails or implementing a gentle exercise routine, you can greatly decrease the likelihood of a fall. A top-notch rehabilitation facility can also serve as your partner in safety. Occupational therapists can help seniors and family members by recommending changes around the house, and physical therapists can help boost strength and mobility through exercise and other therapies. By making a few smart adaptations, you can stay active and stay out of the hospital for many years to come.