Make Your Home A No-Fall Zone
We all know how devastating falls can be for older people.
A shattered wrist, a head injury, or a broken hip can severely decrease quality of life and in some cases reduce life expectancy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling. And more than $34 billion is spent each year on direct medical costs from falls.
Even when no physical injury occurs, experiencing a fall can cause seniors to become worried and then depressed, to suffer decreased confidence and self-esteem, and to begin to limit their activities and socialization out of fear—all of which can lead to more falls. In fact, once a senior does fall, even without injury, they are twice as likely to fall again.
Thankfully, the research also shows that 60 to 70 percent of all falls can be prevented with a little awareness and a few simple changes around the house.
Prepping Yourself For Fall Prevention
As we age we cannot regain our balance from a stumble as quickly as we once did, but we can ensure we stay as alert, strong and flexible as possible to prevent that stumble in the first place.
- Wear sturdy, nonslip shoes every day and all the time.
- Stay active—Walk every day. But in addition, consider taking an exercise class, balance classes, yoga or Tai Chi to build physical strength and improve balance. Every county in Western North Carolina offers such classes specifically designed for seniors. Go to www.wncfallpreventioncoalition.org to find a class near you.
- Schedule a doctor’s appointment specifically to discuss fall prevention.
- Have your physician review your medicatioins to ensure interactions do not increase your risk of fall, i.e. tranquilizers, sedatives, and antidepressants can affect your balance.
- Discuss any numbness, aches, foot pain, or shortness of breath you experience as you go about your daily routine.
- Get tested for balance, strength, and a steady gait
- Ensure any eyesight or hearing issues are noted and corrected if possible
- Bring up any other issues you think may put you at risk for a fall--for instance, if you've already suffered a fall, let your doctor know.
- Ask for your overall risk level for falling and for recommendations on how to prevent a fall
If your physician does not offer such assess-ments (and many unfortunately today do not), ask to be regerred to a physical therapist to evaluate balance, strength and gait; see your eye doctor to evaluate your sight; have your hearing checked; and ask your pharmacist to review your medications for any potential interactions.
Prepping Your Home for Fall Prevention
Taking care of major risk factors for falling inside your home is easy and inexpensive.
- Eliminate clutter—Take a good look around the house. Remove anything from the floor that could cause you to trip—piles of reading material, electric cords, heaters or fans, any clutter.
- Secure rugs—It’s best to remove any loose rugs. However, if you must keep them be sure to secure them to the floor with double-sided tape.
- Improve stairs—Stairways should be clear of clutter, straight, and have sturdy handrails on both sides.
- Equip bathroom—Make sure floors stay dry. Put nonslip mats in tub/shower and in front of toilet. Install handrails in shower and anywhere you think they’d be helpful. Place a seat in the shower.
- Free light switches—Be sure every room in the house—especially high traffic areas and bedrooms—are well lit. Ensure light switches are easily accessible from doorways (not behind furniture or across a room). Install good nightlights from the bedroom to the bathroom.
- Evaluate pet behavior—If pets are constantly underfoot or are strong enough to pull you over during a walk, you may want to create strategies (i.e. gates to keep pets off steps, a dog walker) to keep both you and your pet safe.
Find Out More
And Find Resources Near You
If all this seems like too much at once, don’t worry. Our area has organizations ready to help you access your risk of fall and to assist you in eliminating as much of that risk as possible. To find out more about fall prevention in your county and to find a risk assessor and other support services, contact WNC Fall Prevention Coalitions at www.wncfallpreventioncoalition.org or call 828-250-3991.