Falls are the leading cause of injury — both fatal and non-fatal — in adults over the age of 65. Each year, according to the National Council on Aging, a quarter of adults 65+ fall. Falling once leads to a greater chance of falling again, and 85 percent of falls happen at home.
Falls happen for a number of reasons: cognitive impairment, medications, stroke and neuromuscular disease, to name a few. Other reasons for falls include one’s environment: poor lighting, trip hazards, clutter and difficulty getting around.
The good news is that there are some very simple ways to improve one’s safety in the home, and Barbara Coleman, Natick VNA’s Rehabilitation Manager, shares some tips.
Remove clutter. This may be easier said than done for some, but removing piles that accumulate on the floor or furniture can create a safer environment for one to walk around and live in. Bundle up any electrical cords that reach across a walkway; it’s very easy to get caught in the mess — and to fall.
Wear the right clothing. Long robes and even pants that can get caught under our feet are another factor that contributes to falls.
Mind your pets. I don’t know about you, but my cat follows me all over my house and is usually sitting at my feet. Of course, I still haven’t learned to look for him before I change locations, and yes: I’ve tripped over my cat more times that I can count.
Light your home well. Motion sensor lighting is very helpful outside your home, especially during the winter months when the sun sets early and leaves may be slippery. Inside, be sure there’s ample lighting on stairways and at night. Night lights are an easy solution for improving vision and thereby increasing safety during the nighttime.
Consider adaptive equipment. Many older adults can benefit from utilizing a bedside commode, a bed transfer handle, grab bars in the shower and a tub seat or bench. These items provide extra safety throughout the home.
Wear appropriate footwear. Winter means icy walkways and slippery steps. Outfit yourself with boots that have good traction or a product that has grips to prevent outdoor slips and falls.
Other ways to minimize one’s risk of falls include:
Removing scatter rugs; it’s easy to trip on a corner or edge of a loose rug.
Closing kitchen appliances when not in use; have you ever walked into the door of an open dishwasher or stove? Ouch!
Using assistive devices like the ones mentioned above as well as using a cane or walker when necessary.
Like it or not, winter is almost here. For some, it means remaining indoors to keep warm. Whether you’re inside or outside, minimizing your risk of falls can be a lifesaver — literally. Be sure to get rid of fall hazards and introduce safety measures to your home environment (or that of your loved one) to minimize the risk of falling.
Lauren B. Schiffman is Director of Communications for Century Health Systems, parent company of Natick Visiting Nurse Association and Distinguished Care Options. For more information, visit www.centuryhealth.org, or call 508-651-1786.