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Fall Prevention Tips for Seniors

Environmental factors cause about one third to half of all falls in the home. Hazards include slippery rugs or floor surfaces, poor lighting, unsafe staircases and unstable shoes. Health conditions also contribute to falls. These include dizzy spells, osteoporosis, structural diseases of the feet, stroke, visual impairments and lack of mobility.

Fear of falling can create a vicious cycle. The fear is common, and can contribute to restrictive lifestyles, isolation and reduced mobility.  Reduced mobility may cause more falls because of muscle atrophy, joint stiffness and poor physical condition.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk of falling. Falls can be prevented by being aware of the hazards in your environment and by making informed choices concerning footwear, medications and exercise.

Footwear

According to Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, wearing unsafe shoes or slippers contributes to a large number of falls, and an even larger number of serious hip injuries. Statistics show that people who fall wearing unsafe shoes are six times more likely to fracture their hips. Some tips for footwear include:

  • Shoes should be firmly fastened. Velcro closings or cotton laces are good choices.
  • Shoes should have a nonskid sole with less than a half inch heel.
  • Shoes should contain enough space for the toes to lie flat and straight.
  • Fabric or leather should surround the entire foot for adequate support.
  • Note: Slip-on slippers (open in the back) are dangerous. They can easily cause slips and falls.

Medications

Certain drugs and multiple medications increase the risk of falling. Consult a physician to determine if medications should be evaluated for risks associated with falling.  Pharmacists can also review medications to determine if they are compatible with one another.

Physical Condition

Keeping in good physical condition with moderate daily exercise reduces the risk of falls and fall injuries. With increased exercise, one can increase bone mass, muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and range of motion. Some exercise tips are included below:

  • The Sit and Be Fit television exercise program provides low impact exercises that and can be done while sitting in a chair. Check local program listings for time and channel.
  • The Renton Senior Activity Center offers a variety of exercise programs, including Senior Fitness Training, Aerobics, Tap Dance, Tai Chi, Strength and Balance,  Exercise with the Aid of a Chair, and Easy Line Dancing. For more information, call the Senior Activity Center at 425.430.6633, or visit their web page.
  • Join a health club, or simply walk, use hand weights, or exercise at home with the help of exercise videos.

Visual Impairments

Vision should be checked regularly and prescription glasses updated as needed. Glasses should always be kept nearby, especially when a person gets up at night.

Home Fall Hazard Checklist:

  • Both sides of stairways have sturdy rails (inside and out).
  • Handrails are installed to extend the full length on both sides of stairways.
  • Throw rugs are secured with carpet tape or non-skid rug pads.
  • Stairs and walking areas are free of clutter.
  • Edges of steps are even and of same size and height.
  • Loose carpet edges are tacked down with double-sided carpet tape.
  • Sturdy grab bars are attached to the tub or shower.
  • Tubs/showers have non-skid mats or non-slip surfaces.
  • Furniture is arranged so it is not an obstacle.
  • Lamp, extension and telephone cords are placed out of traffic flow.
  • Step stools are sturdy and stable (handrails preferred).
  • Small pets are kept from under foot.
  • Spills are wiped up as soon as they occur.
  • Ice and snow are removed from steps and walkways.
  • All stairways, halls and walkways are well lit.
  • Night lights or bedside remote control light switches are used.
  • Ensure that adequate lighting is provided throughout your home.
  • A light is located in the bathroom nearest your bedroom.
  • Grab bars near the toilet for east of use.
  • Sturdy, non-slip shoes are worn at all times.

Shopping List for Preventing Falls in Your Home:

Here are some ideas for equipment that can be purchased to minimize the chances of falling in your home:

  • Non-skid tread tape for the stairs
  • Bathtub mat or non-slip decals
  • Portable or permanent grab bars for the bathtub
  • Double-sided carpet tape
  • Non-skid foam rug pad
  • Night lights
  • Sturdy step stool with a handrail
  • Toilet bar
  • Raised toilet seat
  • Hand held shower
  • Bath tub chair
  • Bath tub transfer bench
  • Cane or walker
  • Pik Stick (for picking up items you can't reach)
  • Bed rails