Every year hundreds of thousands of older Americans suffer serious injuries from a fall at home or out on the town. In 2016 alone, almost 30,000 US seniors died as a result of a fall, and one in four seniors is likely to fall this year. However, falling is not inevitable! There are steps you can take to reduce risk, and preventing falls is one of the most effective ways to allow a senior to stay happy and healthy. Here are 20 tips to prevent falls that you can use today.
Tip #1 – Wear Shoes!
As simple as it may sound, finding a comfortable pair of shoes is one of the best ways to prevent falls. Make sure your loved ones have comfortable shoes available all the time. Instead of socks or slippers in the house, wear non-skid, rubber-soled, lace up shoes. The shoes should have a goldilocks heal, not too thin or too thick, but just right. Not sure where to get a pair? Try a simple search in Google and you’ll find a ton of options. A great place to start is Silverts senior shoe selection. They have a wide variety of options and specialize in clothing for our senior population.
Tip #2 – Get Stronger
We all know that improving physical fitness leads to all kinds of regular health benefits. That’s as true for seniors as it is for the rest of us. Our Revelers work with our seniors on a number of activities. A few ideas that you can try today include:
- Otago Fall Prevention Exercises – to prepare you and prevent falls
- Tai Chi – to improve core, leg joint, and hip strength
- Walking – get out for daily walks of 15 minutes or more a couple of times a day
- Swimming – a whole body exercise that strengthens with very low impact
- Aqua Aerobics – can help improve flexibility, balance, and strength
- Stretching – can improve blood circulation
Tip #3 – Do a Home Safety Inspection
The best way to prevent a fall is to remove the most likely obstacles. There are a lot of great free tips to help identify the biggest areas of concern for a typical senior living at home.
- For a simple starter guide, try this pamphlet from the CDC.
- If you prefer a more comprehensive guide, the AARP has a handy checklist to help you.
- If you are in the St Louis area, give us a call. We’ll come out and do a safety inspection for you for FREE!
Tip #4 – See What You’re Missing
It may seem obvious, but improved eyesight is a huge factor in staying safe at home and in public. You can’t avoid the obstacles you can’t see clearly, so make sure to get your eyes checked. If it’s been a while since you or your loved ones have been to the eye doctor, make sure to get a checkup and use up-to-date prescription lenses.
Sunlight is another vision hazard. Make sure to wear sunglasses outside and change to regular eyeglasses when you get back home. And remember, bifocals can be a hazard too, particularly on stairs.
Tip #5 – Light the Way
Ensure all of the main rooms have proper lighting, so you and your loved ones can see clearly. Make sure to keep stairways well lit, particularly at the top and bottom. Check for burnt out bulbs and replace any dim bulbs with brighter ones, particularly in dim hallways. Add remote control and touch-sensitive lamps to make it easier to turn the light on at night, and add night lights to hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms for better vision at night. Wayfair has a ton of fun ways to light the way.
Tip #6 – Get a Grip
Along with wearing non-skid shoes, improving the grip of slippery surfaces will help reduce one of the biggest hazards in the house. Bathtubs and showers are obvious places to add nonslip mats, but don’t forget other slippery surfaces. Any tile or wood floor can become slick when wet, and many decks and porches can be hazardous, as well. Use waxed floors where possible.
Tip #7 – Avoid the Stairs
Stairs are a hazard. If possible, arrange the home so that trips up and down the stairs are minimized.
- If it’s possible to live on one level, do it.
- Move laundry facilities to the main level.
- Keep spare supplies on the main level.
When stairs can’t be avoided, ensure handrails are secure on both sides of the stairs. If the stairs are wood, tile, or another slippery surface, install high friction footings like anti-slip tape. Consider an assistive service to help Mom with trips up and down the stairs and performing the other tasks that might cause her to take unnecessary trips on the stairs
Tip #8 – Less Is More
- Remove any throw rugs or other hazards lurking on the floors.
- Make sure there are clear pathways around the house by moving any unnecessary furniture out of the way. Soften sharp corners on tables and other household furniture and ensure they are sturdy and unlikely to tip over if bumped into.
- Move any extension cords, cables, or other wiring. If possible, fix them in place so that they do not become tripping hazards.
- Rearrange chairs and other objects so they are clear of main pathways where Mom will be walking around.
Tip #9 – Stripe the Lanes!
Use brightly colored tape to mark walkways around rooms. This will help ensure the paths are clear and will give bright guidance to you and your loved ones as you move around the house.
Installing glow-in-the-dark tape can be doubly effective as a beacon at night. Place strips along the baseboards for a wall guide at night and underneath light switches and thermostats to guide family members as they move about at night.
Tip #10 – Work that Bathroom
Other than the stairs, the bathroom is the biggest hazard in the house, but there are a number of small changes that can make a big difference.
- Install no-slip pads in the tub or shower
- Get a shower chair that’s adjustable.
- Use a removable shower wand
- Add grab bars in the bath and near the toilet
- Make sure night lights are turned on
- Add a slip-resistant rug
- Use a toilet surround to loved ones can help themselves up.
Tip #11 – Tech to the Rescue
We live in the era of the Internet of Things. Use technology to help! Install smart lighting in the house so that loves ones can turn the lights on and off from a smart tablet or phone. Add a smart thermostat like this one that can be controlled by an Amazon Alexa.
Consider a health tracking device. The Apple Watch is a leader, but our favorite is the smart device from CarePredict. Using AI technology, they can help predict when a loved one is more likely to fall and alert you or your Revel Home Care care team to take extra preventative measures.
Tip #12 – Mind the Meds
It’s no secret that many of our seniors are on multiple medications at once. Make sure to take the medications as prescribed and discuss the potential interactions with your doctor.
- Ask why this medication is being prescribed?
- How long does the medication take to be effective?
- What are the side effects? Pay close attention to dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, and lack of coordination.
- Are there any alternatives?
- Do you need to take it with food?
Also, be careful with sleep aids and other nighttime medication. Dizziness or drowsiness is dangerous, and taking medication properly is a great way to prevent falls.
To keep all of your various medications consider a medication reminder aide. Here are a few to check out.
Tip #13 – Reorganize High and Low Items
Getting to the high shelf in a bedroom, kitchen, or laundry room can be a pain. And if a loved one has to break out the step stool, it’s a risk too! Move the important stuff down from high shelves to a countertop location. Use shelf space and other surfaces at a comfortable height to store the most important items. Where possible, reorganize the low cabinets and drawers. Anything that will be used regularly should be moved to an easier to reach location. Bending over can be hazardous too!
Tip #14 – Safety Away from Home
- Make sure to wear less baggy clothing and comfortable non-slip shoes.
- When possible, travel with a professional driver or senior transportation service.
- When out in the yard or other areas, consider walking in the grass. It’s softer and less likely to be extra slippery.
- Make sure there is enough lighting, and if it’s dim, take extra time.
- Leave early! The best way to ensure a safe trip is to have plenty of time, so you don’t have to rush.
- Use a cane or walker. A little support goes a long way.
- And watch out for curbs!
Tip #15 – Get Help!
A huge factor in being able to stay safe in the home longer is to get help when possible. At Revel, we spend a lot of time each visit making sure we reinforce the safety steps in our safety plan. And, having an extra hand with moving around, reaching that top shelf, emptying the dishwasher, or getting up from the restroom help lower the risk of a fall.
Work with other members of the family to take turns checking in on the house. Teamwork goes a long way.
Tip #16 – Consider Home Modifications
Staying at home is a huge happiness factor for many older adults, but sometimes, the home is just too much of a hazard, even with the many tips above.
Home modifications can be expensive, but they can add years to a loved one’s ability to stay at home comfortably and safely. Big Rentz has a nice guide to get you started thinking about some medium and larger projects to help.
Tip #17 – Doors!
Keeping cabinet doors closed and secure is a great way to prevent a loved one from bumping into anything accidentally. Doorknobs can be a bit tricky at times, as well. Consider adding rubber covers to the doors used most often. This cover from Amazon comes in a pack of four, but there are plenty of options.
Tip #18 – Limit Alcohol
Another simple way to reduce fall risk is to limit alcohol intake. The effects of alcohol have a substantial effect on cognitive skill and balance. If possible, limit drinking and other mind-altering medications. Also, make sure to speak with your doctor about how your medications might interact with alcoholic beverages.
Tip #19 – Have It Delivered!
Reduce the need to venture out for shopping items, and you can dramatically reduce the risks of falling. There are a number of free and paid services to bring everything needed to your door today. You can skip a trip to the grocery store by ordering online and having your items delivered to your door. Instacart works with both Dierbergs and Schnucks in St Louis. Other delivery services like Shipt can help too.
Just hungry? Uber Eats and GrubHub can bring freshly cooked meals to your door.
And, Amazon Prime will deliver just about anything you could possibly need in a couple of days.
Let your Reveler help coordinate your needs and delivery schedule. We can help provide household support, unpack and organize your items, and prepare your meals after delivery.
Tip #20 – Rest, Relax, and Take Your Time!
Our last tip is maybe the most important. Without proper rest, eventually, a spill might happen.
Make sure to put enough time in your schedule for a good night’s sleep. Organize the bedroom so that loved ones have everything they need and can reach the lights from bed. Research has shown that frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom can lead to an increased risk of a fall.
Plan for naps and rest throughout the day. Taking a brief moment to rest can provide the strength necessary to stay safe. Extra rest and extra time will always pay off.
The above tips are just a start, and there are many more guides and resources online to help. If you want help with a safety assessment or think a loved one might benefit from having someone around to help with everyday tasks, give us a call. We started Revel to help make this easier for families.
Have other tips to prevent falls? We’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below now.