According to the National Institutes of Health, fall-related injuries send more than 1.6 million older Americans to the emergency room annually. In fact, every year, 1-in-3 seniors will experience a fall, often resulting in fractures, loss of independence, and sometimes even death.
Suggested Safety Measures
June marks National Safety Month, the perfect time to evaluate and minimize risks in your loved one’s environment. Here are some tips for reducing controllable risk.
- De-clutter crowded rooms; if feasible, remove large pieces of furniture to minimize obstacles and create more space for walking.
- Repair cracked and uneven sidewalks.
- Avoid using floor polishes or waxes that make the floors particularly slippery.
- Remove throw rugs, and tack down any loose carpet.
- Mark stairs with color-contrasted tape to make edges clearly visible. Similarly, use brightly colored tape to mark changes in surface type (for instance carpet-to-hardwood transition points).
- Install nightlights, touch lamps, or motion sensing lights in bathrooms, hallways, kitchen, bedrooms, and main living area.
- Consider installing grab bars and a padded shower seat in the tub/shower area.
- Mount a liquid soap dispenser on the tub/shower wall and use non-skid bath mats.
- Ensure that shoes fit properly and have rubber soles. Avoid walking around in socks or slippers without adequate grip or tread.
- Keep commonly used items within easy reach.
- Remove long cords that could be tripping hazards.
- Keep a flashlight and telephone near the bed, and place a list of emergency numbers next to each phone in the house.
- Inspect handrails to be sure they are securely attached.
- Remove wheels/casters from furniture.
- If possible, adjust height of bed and/or use a non-slip bedside crash mat.
Being Prudent Pays
It’s also a good idea to keep an up-to-date medication list on hand and periodically review it with a physician or pharmacist. Watch for drug interactions or side effects such as dizziness, confusion, or drowsiness; this is particularly important when starting new medications or altering dosages. Consult a medical professional before adding over-the-counter medications and supplements as they may also cause negative interactions.
Conditions such as dementia, arthritis, and osteoporosis not only increase risk and frequency of falls, but injuries are often more serious in individuals with these illnesses. The Center for Disease Control reports 20 to 30% of falls result in moderate to severe injuries; therefore, taking time to minimize controllable risks could prevent dangerous or even life-threatening situations down the road.
What suggestions do you have for reducing fall risk? Please leave a comment to share your own tips.