My grandmother lived with us when I was growing up, and I remember her being incredibly active in doing things around the house even as she approached her early 80s. This all changed one day when she slipped on a throw rug and fell, breaking her hip. We called an ambulance and went with her to the emergency department, where she was admitted to the hospital and later had surgery. Luckily, she did not have any complications from the surgery. Afterwards, she relied on a wheelchair to get around until she died 7 years later.
People may take for granted how easy it is for them to move around when they know every step and corner of their home. But that is not the case for many older adults, whose declining balance, coordination or vision may put them at significant risk of falling. The risk of falling increases with each decade of life. Injuries resulting from a fall, such as a hip fracture or head injury can affect an older adult’s health and take away their independence. Each year, one in every three adults age 65 or older falls, and more than 2 million are treated in emergency departments for injuries that result from falls.
Getting regular exercise that focuses on improving balance and leg strength can decrease the risk of falling. Some medicines, taken alone or combined with other medicines can increase the risk of falling. Vision problems that sometimes increase with age also increase risk. Having regular eye examinations and making sure that eyeglass prescriptions are correct are important. Talking about this with a health care provider or pharmacist can help older adults understand and decrease these risks.
Since about half of all falls happen at home, there are things that families, friends, and caregivers can do to help older adults reduce fall hazards in the home.
Here are 8 quick tips on how to help older adults reduce their chances of falling in their own homes.
- Remove things they can trip over (like papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where they walk.
- Install handrails on both sides of stairs (for inside and outside stairs).
- Make sure that lighting in the home is good and allows someone to see any possible hazards. It is very important to have good lighting at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Put grab bars inside and next to the tub or shower and next to the toilet, if needed.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
- Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.
- Put frequently used items in cabinets or on shelves that can be reached easily without using a step stool.
- Encourage them to wear shoes both inside and outside the house and to avoid going barefoot or wearing socks or slippers around the house.
This month is Older American’s Month, where the community is asked to “Unleash the Power of Age” and keep older adults productive, active, and influential members of our society!