15 Tips To Avoid Falls

Published on: 2019/11/06


Falling is the #1 cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors, according to the National Council on Aging. For Americans 65 and older, the fear of falling is a real and terrifying prospect. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of falling.

The CDC estimates at least 3 million older adults visit the emergency room for fall-related injuries each year. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated for a fall, and every 19 minutes, a senior dies as the result of a fall.

Falls - even those that don’t result in injury - can impact a senior’s quality of life. The fear of falling can limit activities and curtail social engagements resulting in depression, isolation, further physical decline and feelings of helplessness.

There are practical ways to decrease the risk of falling. 

Tips to avoid falls

1. Improve Strength and Balancing

When a senior’s lower body is weak or in pain, they are more likely to fall. Strengthening muscles can improve balance and help an individual remain steady on their feet. 

2. Start an Exercise Routine

Regular movement and exercise improves muscles and makes seniors stronger. Weight-bearing activities, such as climbing stairs or walking, may slow bone loss from osteoporosis. Staying physically active will keep joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible.

3. Adjust Walkers and Canes to the Correct Height

Relying on assistive devices like canes and walkers help some seniors with mobility issues, but those devices are only helpful if they’re correctly sized. If the device is too high or too low, it may contribute to a senior’s fall.

4. Avoid Wearing Loose Clothing

Loose or free-flowing clothing can catch or snag, resulting in a person stumbling. 

5. Selected the Right Shoes

High heels, shoes with slick soles, or wearing only socks can be hazardous. Sturdy walking shoes with non-skid soles will provide a firm footing. 

6. Clear Clutter

A home is filled with cherished possessions … but those same possessions can be deadly. Remove stacks of paper, piles of clothes or loose cords from walkways. Move furniture and plants from high traffic areas. Keep high-traffic areas clear.

7. Remove or Repair Tripping Hazards

Secure or remove loose rugs. Nail down boards or loose weatherstripping or thresholds in doorways. 

8. Strengthen Spatial Awareness

Being aware of surroundings goes a long way in preventing falls. Older adults, however, may have difficulty remaining mindful of where their body is in relation to other objects or surfaces. Practice multi-tasking - walk while talking or move an item while reaching for another - to increase spacial awareness.

9. Install Proper Lighting

Dark corners and dimly lit hallways make difficult to see potential hazards. Use lamps and nightlights to illuminate dark areas. Ensure the pathway to lightswitches is clear from clutter. Keep a lamp within reach for middle-of-the-night needs.

10. Add Rails and Grab Bars

Grab bars in the shower or near the toilet as well as rails along hallways or next to stairs can help prevent falls. Being able to grab on to a firm handhold device can assist seniors as they transition from one area to another.

11. Check Your Eyes

Uneven ground or tripping hazards can be difficult to see in the best of circumstances. However, even small changes in eyesight can lead to big trouble. Make sure vision prescriptions are up-to-date and accurate. 

12. Discuss Medications

Side effects of medication may include dizziness or drowsiness, both of which can increase fall risks. A doctor should check the prescription and over-the-counter medication a senior is taking to ensure there are no interactions or side effects that could lead to a fall.

13. Get Enough Sleep

Healthy sleep is a critical component for our bodies. When an individual is groggy or sleep-deprived, their motor skill functions decrease and reaction time is slowed. A well-rested mind and body is better prepared to avoid fall risks.

14. Be Alert to Pets

Animals can be a great comfort, but they can also be underfoot and cause falls. Be mindful of an animal in the room and its potential to impede walking. At night, limit a pet’s access to bedrooms, hallways or bathrooms or any other place a senior may walk.

15. Take Your Time

Moving from a lying down or sitting position to a standing one can cause postural hypotension, otherwise known as blood pressure that drops too much. This leads to lightheadedness that can cause falls. Confusion can also cause falls. When waking up in an unfamiliar environment, encourage seniors to wait a few moments for their mind to clear before attempting to get up and walk around.

Avoiding a fall is best, but if you do fall, the staff at Comprehensive Rehab can help you with all your physical or occupational therapy needs. Our caring staff is fully trained to provide you with a wide range of treatment approaches to best suit your needs.

Comprehensive Rehab has Iowa locations in Clinton, Davenport, Muscatine, and Maquoketa.