By Jan Untz, RN, BSN, Oxford Orthopedic Coordinator
Falls can put you at risk of serious injury. Fall prevention may not seem like a lively topic, but it is quite important. Physical changes and health concerns—and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions—can make falls more likely.
Fact: Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults.
Help prevent falls with these simple fall-prevention measures, from reviewing your medications to hazard-proofing your home.
Talk to Your Doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor to begin your fall prevention plan.
Be prepared to answer questions such as:
- What medications are you taking? Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring your medications to the appointment.
Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling. To help with fall prevention, the doctor may consider weaning you off certain medications—such as sedatives and some types of antidepressants.
- Have you fallen before? Be prepared to discuss instances when you fell and give detailed information about when, where, and how you fell. You also need to be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.
- Could your health conditions cause a fall? Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls. Be prepared to discuss health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk—do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath when you walk? Your doctor may evaluate muscle strength, balance and gait as well.
Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. If approved by your doctor, you may want to consider activities to reduce the risk of falls and improve your strength, balance, coordination and flexibility such as walking, water workouts or tai chi.
If you avoid physical activity because you’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, talk about it plainly. Your doctor may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or may refer you to a physical therapist, who can create a custom exercise program to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength and gait.
Wear Sensible Shoes
Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. People at risk for falls should wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.
Remove Home Hazards
Take a look around your home. The living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways may be filled with hazards.
To make your home safer:
- Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
- Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
- Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing—or remove loose rugs entirely.
- Repair loose floorboards and carpeting right away.
- Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
- Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
- Use nonslip mats in the bathtub and shower.
Light Up Your Living Space
Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see.
You can also:
- Place night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
- Place a lamp within reach of the bed for middle-of-the-night needs.
- Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances.
- Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
- Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
- Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.
Use Assistive Devices
Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices can help, too.
- Hand rails for both sides of stairways
- Nonslip treads for bare-wood steps
- A raised toilet seat, or one with armrests
- Grab bars for the shower or tub
- A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down
If you or someone you know could be at risk for falls and would like to learn more about Oxford’s Lifeline Personal Emergency Response System click here.