As we all spend more time than ever in our homes, it is a good time for older adults to make sure their home is safe, specifically a place that doesn’t have hazards that might lead to a fall.
Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries amongst older adults in the United States, though many falls can be prevented by making simple changes to your home. According to the National Council on Aging, at least 25% of Americans over the age of 65 fall each year, and falls are the leading cause of fatal injury amongst this same age group. Every 11 seconds and older adult is treated in the ER for a fall, and approximately every 19 minutes an older adult dies as a result of a fall.
Rather than living in fear of falling, there are several very simple and low cost things older adults can do to mitigate the risk.
- Clean up clutter around your home to keep you from inadvertently tripping over something.
- Remove throw rugs. They can be a tripping hazard.
- Install grab bars in the shower. These can be installed by a professional for about $500 or less. Also make sure your shower has non-slip grips on the floor.
- Wear tie or Velcro shoes without a heel while indoors. Studies have shown that going barefoot, just with socks, or wearing slippers can increase the risk for falls.
- Avoid wearing loose fitting clothing so that it doesn’t get caught on anything and/or bunch up to cause a fall.
- Keep your house well-lit so that you can see obstacles that might be in the way. Use night lights.
- Check in with your physician to see whether any medications you’ve been prescribed might make you prone to dizziness, and whether there are any alternative options or ways to manage your medications to mitigate these side effects.
Sometimes these quick fixes don’t feel like enough. If that is the case, you might consider finding a way to contain your living to one level of your home. Is there way to move laundry from the basement? Can you turn your first floor “office” into a bedroom?
For individuals looking for more support in this area, there are several evidence based programs that have been demonstrated to help prevent falls, including “Matter of Balance” offered at Northshore Senior Center. And remember, one strategy that will always help is to just take your time and move slowly. As a wise person once said, “Don’t fear moving forward slowly. Fear standing still.”