Did you know that falls are the number one cause of traumatic brain injury? Or that according to the CDC, every year 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 will fall and many of those falls occur right in the person’s own home? Falling is not a “normal” part of growing older, and there are many things that increase the risk of falling as we age, such as lack of exercise, poor flexibility, vision problems, muscle weakness, etc.
But the good news is most falls are preventable by making some easy changes around your house and in your routine.
- Make sure floors and stairways are free of clutter including shoes, books, boxes, etc.
- Throw rugs are a major tripping hazard. If you wish to keep a throw rug, have it securely tacked down with double sided tape.
- Keep electrical cords securely fastened and away from the center of the floor.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom for safety in the shower and toilet.
- Install non-slip material in the shower.
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairs and make sure they are secure. Walking up and down stairs is a great way to stay strong if you do it safely!
- Make sure areas are well lit. Have a light in the stairwell and consider placing a lamp on both sides of the bed to make it easier to find a light if you need to get up in the middle of the night. Also make sure the path from your bed to the bathroom remains clear, and consider a night light.
- In the kitchen, place frequently used items on the lower shelves. Some people get dizzy when they need to look up and reach for items.
- If you need to use a step stool, invest in a sturdy stool with a handle. Never stand on a chair which could easily tip over.
Changes to your daily routine can also lower your risk of a life-changing fall.
- See your doctor regularly to review your medications. Some combinations of medications can cause dizziness, sleepiness or other problems that can contribute to falls.
- Have your vision checked regularly so you can see obstacles and to check your depth perception.
- Drink plenty of water! Dehydration is a major cause of dizziness and mental confusion as people age.
- Get out of the chair and get moving. Regular exercise improves your balance, and maintaining good flexibility is very important as well – try yoga or catch a Tai Chi class. But remember – always consult a physician before beginning a new exercise program.
- When you do get up, do it slowly to allow your blood pressure to normalize before moving about.
For more information on how to prevent falls, go to the American Physical Therapy Association’s Section on Geriatrics website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.