To kick off Patient Safety Week we have compiled some tips on how you can prevent yourself from falling. Falls are one of the leading causes for injury in older adults. Many adults have a fear of falling even if they haven’t fallen before. For some, this means they avoid certain things like walking, shopping, going to social activities, and more. Older individuals have an increased risk of falling for many different reasons including impaired vision, decline in physical fitness, surgical procedures, medications, and more. Falls often lead to broken bones, particularly broken hips, and head trauma. It is important to take preventative measures to decrease the risk of falling.
There are a few basic changes you can make in order to prevent falling and most of them have little or no cost to put in place.
- CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR. Speaking with your Doctor can help identify any health conditions or medications that may contribute to the likelihood of falling. Make sure you are prepared with a list of ALL the medications you take, both prescribe and over the counter. Some medications may have side effects that could potentially increase your risk of falling. Also, make sure you are honest with them as to whether you have fallen before. It is also important to visit your Eye Doctor so that you have the most up to date prescription for your glasses and contacts.
- STAY ACTIVE. This step ties in with consulting your Doctor. When you have the conversation with your Doctor about falling, you should also discuss any recommended physical activity. Staying active will not only help your overall health but it will keep your muscles strong and help with maintaining flexibility, stamina, and coordination. Walking is a great way stay active and you can enjoy this while chatting with friends or window shopping at the mall. Another option is to contact a local gym or senior center and get information about what classes and services they offer.
- DE-CLUTTER. This is probably the easiest way to prevent falls and it does not cost anything. Simply getting rid of stacks of old magazines, newspapers, or anything else in your home that is not needed or used is extremely helpful in decreasing the risk. Especially, if you have things piling up by the door, in a hallway, or on the stairs.
- REMOVE OR REPAIR ANY TRIPPING HAZARDS. Is there an area rug that does not stay put, or an extra end table crammed into a room that partially blocks the entrance? Get rid of it. Is there an extension cord that goes across the room? Move it. Is there a piece of carpet that keeps coming up, or a floor board that is loose? Fix it. Anything that is in the way or needs to be repaired should either be removed or fixed so that falls can be prevented.
- INSTALL HANDRAILS AND GRAB BARS. Having the extra support when going up and down stairs, by the toilet and shower, or anywhere else that it may be needed is crucial in preventing falls. If this is not something you can install yourself, it is best to enlist the help of a family member or handyman.
- INCREASE LIGHTING. Make sure your house is properly lit. Installing brighter lights in hallways and stairwells as well as in the bathroom is a cheap and effective way to minimize a potential fall risk. It may also be beneficial to invest in some nightlights for your hallway and bathroom so that it is easier to navigate around your house at night, especially if you wake up frequently to go to the bathroom or get a drink.
- TAKE YOUR TIME. Be careful when moving around. Take it slow if you are not comfortable with your mobility level. Simply pausing when transition from laying down to sitting up, sitting up to standing up, and before going up and down stairs can help greatly. Moving too fast can put you off balance and if your reflexes aren’t as good as they used to be, you may not be able to catch yourself.
- INVEST IN NON SLIP MATS. Putting non slip mats in an area that is prone to getting wet is an easy way to help avoid the possibility of slipping. That means putting them inside and outside of the shower, in the kitchen and laundry room, as well as at any entrances to the house.
- WEAR SHOES OR STURDY SLIPPERS. Sure, socks and fluffy slippers are more comfortable, but they are not helpful. They do not provide proper support and they increase the risk of slipping or falling. It is important to wear proper fitting shoes or slippers with hard, sturdy bottoms. If shoes are too uncomfortable, you can also opt to wear socks that have the grips on the bottom of them.
- WEAR PROPERLY FITTING CLOTHING. If you are wearing loose or baggy pants, it is increasing your risk of tripping or slipping and falling down. Opt for better fitting or hemmed clothing that does not drag on the ground.