Please Don't Fall!
Falls are dangerous at any age but for older adults they can be especially troublesome - they can lead to broken bones or more serious issues. Some of the causes for falls in the elderly may be poor balance and reflexes. Other reasons may be medications causing dizziness, vision difficulties, and medical diseases including low blood pressure, diabetes and neuropathy.
Prevention can be key to preventing falls, or at best, preventing complications of a fall. Regular physical check-ups including eye exams are a must. Regular exercise will strengthen muscles, improve balance and keep bones strong. Even diet can be a part of fall safety by consuming adequate amounts of calcium and Vitamin D to decrease the chance of breaking a bone, in the event of a fall.
Below are ideas and suggestions for keeping a safe home.
Consider potential tripping hazards:
Remove loose wires or cords from areas you walk through to get from one room to another.
Avoid placing throw rugs at the top or bottom of stairways.
If possible remove any loose throw rugs. Or secure throw rugs and loose carpet with non-skid or double sided tape to prevent slippage.
Be aware of all pets. Use bells on your pet’s collar to help you keep track of where they are.
Fix any uneven flooring in doorways.
Place contrasting color strips on first and last steps.
Never leave objects on stairs.
Be aware of uneven sidewalks and driveways and walk slowly on them. Keep your eyes down to watch carefully as you go over curbs!
Good lighting will decrease fall risks.
Replace burned out light bulbs, immediately.
Use adequate lighting in potentially dark areas.
Make sure a bedside light is easy to reach. Having a flashlight with good batteries at your bedside is a good idea too!
Install night lights in the bedroom and bathroom.
Install light switches that glow in the dark.
Stay safe in the bathroom.
Put hand rails in the bathtub or shower and next to the toilet.
Place a slip-proof mat in the bathtub or shower.
If possible, sit on a bath chair or bench when taking a shower.
Use a non-skid bath mat outside the tub for firm footing.
Keep the floor outside the tub or shower dry.
Raise the toilet seat or buy an elevated toilet seat to place over your existing toilet.
Re-organize so things are easier to reach. Keep a cordless or cell phone with you at all times so you have it when you need to make or receive calls. Having that phone right there in event of a fall is especially important!
Keep all rooms and especially floors, clear of clutter.
DO NOT stand on chairs to reach things. When using a stepladder be sure it is fully opened and both spreaders are fully locked. If possible, use a stepladder with a bar, offering a hand hold.
Ask your provider about a cane or walker. If you use a walker, attach a small basket to it to keep your phone and other important items in easy reach.
When you walk or are moving from sitting to standing, avoid sudden movements or changes in position.
Wear shoes with low heels that fit well. Rubber soles can help keep you from slipping.
Stay away from water or ice on sidewalks.
Have a bed that is low, so that your feet touch the floor when you sit on the edge of the bed.
Identify community services that can provide assistance, such as 24-hour pharmacies and grocery stores that take orders over the phone and deliver. It is especially important to use these services in bad weather.
Questions for your doctor at your next visit:
If you are experiencing dizziness ask if any of the medications you are taking has this as a potential side effect. If so, perhaps the dosage can be changed or a new medication prescribed. Medications that can be culprits in causing dizziness include blood pressure and heart medications, diuretics (water pills) and muscle relaxers or tranquilizers.
If balance is an issue, ask your physician if a physical therapist might be able to help. Physical therapy might also be useful to strengthen arms to help you get up more easily from a chair.
With a referral from your physician, an occupational therapist can visit your home to make recommendations to make your bathroom safer.
If you notice changes in your vision make an appointment with your ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
Let your doctor know if you have fallen or have nearly fallen. Talking through the circumstances around the fall or near fall can help identify safety issues to correct and prevent a fall in the future.
Remember, prevention is key!
Fall prevention is much easier than dealing with the possible consequences later. BE SAFE!
There is a wealth of information out there regarding falls and many other health issues - here's some to get you started!
Bathroom Safety - Adults
Exercises to Prevent Falls
Your Friend In Healthcare,
Mary Rempert, RN