Watching Your Step: Safety Tips for Preventing Falls Among Seniors
A fall can trigger a downward health spiral. Take these steps to prevent one
Every 15 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall — the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors. Responsible for more than half of fatal head injuries and other severe injuries like hip fractures, a simple fall can often trigger a downward spiral of serious health issues, impacting the quality of life for both active and homebound seniors.
You’d be surprised to know that the places where falls are most prevalent aren’t sidewalks or the backyard. According to the National Council on Aging, 70 percent of falls among seniors occur right in their homes. As a care coordinator and registered nurse for VNSNY CHOICE Health Plans, I work closely with the elderly and their loved ones to develop a healthcare plan that addresses the patient’s needs, helping them live safely and independently in the home.
As more and more of our elderly loved ones choose to age in their homes, it’s important that we remind ourselves about ways to prevent falls and reduce unnecessary injuries. Here are some simple tips and techniques I use to help our at-risk seniors avoid serious fall-related injuries.
Stay safe at home. Use a home safety assessment checklist to review all rooms and outdoor areas. Remove clutter on the floor, tape down rugs and cords and arrange furniture to widen pathways. Keep commonly used items in easy reach; do not use step stools. Fix uneven surfaces. Keep your living space brightly lit to prevent tripping on objects that are hard to see. Always wear sturdy shoes. Use handrails on stairs. Avoid wet floors and wipe up spills immediately. Be sure chairs and other furniture are stable. Check for adequate lighting. Consider safety items such as grab bars, raised toilet seats and non-skid tub mats. Carry a cell or portable phone for easy access, especially if you live alone.
Related: Accident-Proof Your Bathroom
Improve balance, strength and mobility. Work on strength and balance by being active. Consider activities such as light exercise programs, weight training, walking programs, Tai Chi, yoga and hobbies like bowling, dancing and gardening. Talk with a health professional before beginning any physical activities.
Manage multiple medications. Review all medications, both over-the-counter and prescription drugs, with your doctor and pharmacist. Always carry a list of your medications. Do not share or “borrow” medications. Know the common side effects for each drug. And remember to take medications as described.
Know your personal risk factors for falls, such as weakness in the legs, previous history of falling, vision problems, cognitive impairment, dizziness, urinary incontinence, being over age 80 and having walking and balance problems.
Follow outdoor safety precautions. It's important to follow safety measures outside the home as well: Wear firm and rubber-soled shoes to maintain traction. Use a cane or walker if needed for stability. Be aware of curbs, cracks, holes and other hazardous conditions. Walk on grass or other firm surfaces when sidewalks are slippery or wet after stormy weather. In winter months, carry a bag of salt to sprinkle on snowy or icy sidewalks. Use an aide or family member for support when walking on uneven surfaces.
Related: How to Walk on Ice Without Falling
For more information visit www.VNSNYCHOICE.org or call (888) 867-6555