Is fall prevention a priority in your loved one’s home? Falls are one of the most common accidents that happen to older adults, making them a serious health concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 36 million falls reportedly happen among older people every year. About three million of these are treated in the emergency room and over 32,000 cases result in deaths.
Because of mobility limitations and other medical issues, older adults have the highest risk of serious injuries and death from falls. As a caregiver, you want to ensure that your loved one avoids potentially dangerous falls. It is necessary to take precautionary measures to keep them as safe as possible.
- What Are the Main Causes of Falls in Older Adults?
- What Are Fall Prevention Exercises?
- How To Determine if a Loved One Is a Fall Risk?
- How To Prevent Falls in Different Parts of the Home
- Does Fall Prevention Actually Prevent All Falls?
- Fall Prevention Products In the Home
What Are the Main Causes of Falls in Older Adults?
There are several factors that increase the risk of falls for seniors. Some of the most common reasons for falls in older adults are:
- Impaired vision
- Reduced muscle strength
- Poor balance
- Side effects of medication
- Chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis
- Environmental hazards (like rugs, pets, and uneven surfaces)
What Are Fall Prevention Exercises?
Exercises that work on balance and strength can help prevent falls as they build up muscle activity and improve stability.
Here are some simple fall prevention exercises for older adults that can be done at home:
Sit to Stand. Starting from a sitting position, shift your weight forward and stand slowly. Sit back down and repeat 5-10 times. Have a sturdy surface in front of you in case you need extra support to hold onto.
Balancing. To improve balance, start with your feet together. Stand near a table or counter that you can grab ahold of if necessary. Hold your stance for 10 seconds. Practice balancing again with your feet apart and hold the pose for 10 seconds. If you feel stable enough, work your way up to balancing for 30 seconds.
How To Determine if a Loved One Is a Fall Risk?
If your loved one is suffering from vision loss, balance problems, or a chronic disease, they are at higher risk for falling. Being around an environment that doesn’t have fall prevention precautions in place can be dangerous.
Below is a list of factors that can put your loved one at risk for falls:
- Past history of falls
- Cognitive impairment
- Low vision, blurry vision, or vision impairment
- Impulsive behaviors
- Intrinsic factors include blood pressure, strength, rigidity, sensory deficit, musculoskeletal issues, and parkinsonism
- Medications that affect balance, cause drowsiness, or light-headedness
- Muscle weakness
- Poor balance and strength
- Neuropathy or loss of feeling in lower extremities
How To Prevent Falls in Different Parts of the Home
To lessen the risk of accidental falls, it is advisable to make safety modifications at home. However, you don’t need to completely remodel your house. A few simple changes and hazard-proofing steps can make a big difference, especially in areas of the home that are most prone to falls, like the bathroom.
Highest Fall Risk: The Bathroom
The bathroom is one of the most common fall-risk areas for older adults, so it’s important to pay special attention here. Add non-slip mats to prevent slipping, and install shower bars (also known as grab bars), handrails, and a raised toilet seat if necessary. Make sure to place toiletries in easily accessible locations. In the shower, a shower chair and a handheld shower head are easy to install and will ease some of the challenges that come with bathing, especially if strength and stamina are an issue. Lastly, make sure the water heater is set no higher than 120 degrees.
Keep it Clutter-Free: The Bedroom
For the bedroom, bed placement and bed height are important to keeping your loved one safe from falls. Is the bed too high? Too low? Is it difficult to get from the bed to the bathroom? Bedding shouldn’t be hanging on the floor, as these can be trip hazardous. Clothing, decorations, and other knickknacks should be organized and stored properly so the space is clutter-free. Additional night lights or motion-activated lighting can also help your loved one navigate easily at night. Keep your telephone and a flashlight within reach of your bed.
No Rugs or Footstools: The Kitchen
Slippery kitchen floors are a major fall hazard for older adults. Area rugs are better off eliminated as they can cause falls. Place kitchen appliances in areas that are easily reachable and discourage the use of footstools. Additionally, invest in appliances that have an automatic shut-off feature and make it a habit to do routine maintenance checks (or have it done by a pro) on all appliances in the kitchen.
Open Pathways: The Living Room
Arrange the living room furniture strategically so that the walking path is clear and clutter-free. Keep the furniture in the living room secured and make sure unused and unnecessary things aren’t taking up space. Electric cords should be tucked away neatly and disconnected when not in use. As in the kitchen, area rugs should be discouraged. If couches or chairs are difficult to get in and out of, a lift recliner chair is a solution for mobility assistance.
Light it Up: Hallways
Ensure that the hallways are clear of clutter and well-illuminated. Loose carpets or floorboards should be removed or repaired. Grab bars or railings can be installed to provide extra support for ambulation. Install extra lights that turn on at night to help your loved one walk around safely. Keep cords out of the walking area and be mindful of the cutest tripping hazards, pets.
Rest and Shade: Outdoor Areas
Uneven terrain can be a challenge to walk on for those with mobility issues. Make sure that there is a safe pathway that is easily accessible. Provide outdoor seating areas that have plenty of shade, so your loved one can rest whenever they need to. As with all the other areas in the home, keep the outdoors free of clutter like toys, garden hoses, and foliage that can be fall and tripping hazards.
Does Fall Prevention Actually Prevent All Falls?
No, fall prevention will not prevent 100% of falls. The risk of falling will always be present regardless of a person’s age, but good fall prevention measures can significantly lower an individual’s risk of falling. Being prepared and well-informed ensures that your loved one is as protected and safe as possible.
What To Do if I Find My Loved One Has Fallen?
If you find your loved one has fallen, if they are not severely hurt with no obvious signs of injuries, carefully help them up to a comfortable sitting position. Treat any minor scratches and apply an ice pack to the area(s) that are sore.
If the fall is significant, they complain of pain, and/or there are signs of injuries, do not move them as this can worsen any injuries. Assess their responsiveness and check if there is bleeding, broken bones, or bruising. Call 911 so they can be treated with emergency medical care.
Fall Prevention Products In the Home
Having fall-prevention products in your home can further lessen the risk of accidents and severe injuries. There are several products that can help you create a safe space for your loved one.
Below are some examples of products to help prevent falls in the home:
- Medical alert systems
- Motion sensors
- Bed alarms
- Non-slip socks
- Grab bars
- Gait belts
- Toilet risers
- Shower bench/chairs
Falls are not a normal part of aging. By carrying out the necessary preparations and a few simple modifications, you can turn your home into a safe space. With fall prevention methods in place, your elderly loved one can enjoy their home without the constant worry of life-threatening falls.
- Schedule fall prevention exercises into the daily routine.
- Assess high-fall-risk areas like the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom for loose cords, rugs, clutter, and any other hazards that can be cleared away.
- Not all falls are 100% preventable, but putting fall prevention measures in place will greatly reduce the number and severity of falls.
- There are simple and inexpensive fall prevention products that can be used at home: non-slip socks, grab bars, raised toilet seats, and medical alert systems are quick and easy to install.
Fall Prevention Frequently Asked Questions:
Falls can be extremely dangerous for older adults. Because it can cause life-threatening injuries and even death, it is advisable to exercise safety precautions to help prevent fall accidents from happening. Preventative measures like a home safety evaluation, home modifications, and health assessments are essential to preventing falls.
Fall prevention is any action or approach that is geared toward reducing the risk of falls. This should be a combination of several elements including exercises, safety evaluations, products, and more.
Simple home modifications (like grab bars, removing hazards, and improving lighting) can significantly decrease the risk of falls at home. Aside from strategically designed installations, fall prevention products are also helpful tools to increase safety at home.
Falling is NOT a normal part of aging. While older adults are more at risk of falls, they can be prevented with the right precautions and safety tools.
Pilates Instructor and Fitness Expert
Beth is a STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor in Matwork and Reformer with training in Stability Chair, Cadillac, Injuries and Special Populations, Barre, and various props. Beth has a little over 10 years of experience working with older adults and helping them achieve their fitness goals.