Falls are the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. And while women fall more than men, men are more likely to die from a fall. The chances of falling and of being seriously injured in a fall increase with age. And, sadly for seniors, falls can also lead to the loss of independence. Falls that cause hip fractures or head trauma can make it hard to get around and even increase the risk of death.
According to the Fall Prevention Partnership of Solano County, a fall that requires hospitalization costs approximately $37,000. In a two-year span (2005-2006) 1,343 individuals over the age of 55 were hospitalized due to injuries from a fall. That translated into nearly $50 million in hospital-related costs in this county alone.
Fortunately most falls can be prevented, according to NorthBay Health at Home Occupational Therapist Carol Daum. “Most falls occur because of safety issues in the home or because the senior was trying to perform tasks beyond their limits,” Daum says. She works with seniors on preventing falls by using assistive devices correctly. For example, if you use a wheelchair, learn how to use the locking brakes. If you need a walker, keep it with you and slow down when you use it.
“Then if you fall, you can call for help.” Grab bars, devices that help you reach for objects and night lights are relatively inexpensive and available through home improvement stores.
She has assembled this list of tips to help keep your home a safe zone.
Bedroom and other living areas
- Turn on the light by the door before entering a dark room (install a light switch by the door if one isn’t easily reached).
- Keep pathways clear of furniture and clutter.
- Keep a lamp at the bedside or next to your favorite chair within easy reach.
- Keep a phone within easy reach of your bed or favorite chair. Program emergency numbers into the phone or write them down near your phone.
- Avoid throw rugs or make sure they have non-skid backing.
- Install grab bars in the shower, tub and by the toilet.
- Use a non-skid mat in and outside the tub and shower.
- Wipe up any water on the floor immediately.
- Use a raised toilet seat or three-in-one commode
on the toilet.
- Use a night light.
- Never stack items on high shelves.
- Make sure items are stored securely and won’t fall when you’re trying to move them.
- Store large or heavy boxes on the floor.
- Install lights in the closet.
- Make sure the stairway is well lit.
- Make sure handrails are installed and secure.
- Keep stairs clear of any clutter.
- Make sure carpeting is secure.
- Apply bright tape to the last and first steps if you have a vision deficit.
Garage and Outdoors
- Keep pathways free from clutter.
- Make sure work areas are well-lit.
- Wear non-skid shoes.
- Ask for help before using a ladder.
- Never use a chair as a ladder.
- Keep frequently used items stored on
lower shelves for safer access.
- Always wipe up spills immediately.
- Never walk on a wet floor.
- Never carry too many dishes at once.
Other useful tips
- Wear lace-up shoes for better support.
- Keep electrical cords out of high traffic areas.
- Keep your furniture in good repair.
- Mark sliding glass doors with stickers
to avoid walking in to them.
- Elevate your seat height with a firm cushion to make it easier to rise from a low surface.
- Sit down to put on or take off underwear, pants, socks and shoes.
- Put weaker leg into clothing first.
- Get a “Life Line” or other alarm system.
- Carry a portable phone or cell phone with you.
- Keep active.
- Exercise regularly.