Fall Prevention: Simple Tips To Prevent Falls

Trip hazards can cause falls around the home.

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.

Keep Moving

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.

For example:

  • 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.

Before My Family Recognized the Emergency, Lifeline Came to the Rescue

By Pam Gennings

A recent blog post on our website Don’t Slip and Fall: Steps to Staying Safe encouraged readers to learn more about Lifeline Emergency Response if they, or a loved one, were at risk of falling. Recently, my family personally experienced the benefits of Lifeline. I am sharing our story to encourage those who are at risk of falls to consider Lifeline.

My sister-in-law Kathleen is 80 years old and has had Lifeline for a few years. She lives with her daughter Becky, but Becky can’t be available all the time.

Because of some health issues, our family encouraged Kathleen to get Lifeline for a sense of security when she was home alone. Thankfully, even after Becky retired and was able to be home more, Kathleen kept her Lifeline.

A few days ago, Kathleen got up at 4 a.m. She entered the bathroom and fell, cutting her hand and chin. Due to blood thinner medication, she started bleeding heavily. Kathleen called for Becky who was asleep in her downstairs bedroom. Becky could not hear her. Fortunately, Kathleen had her Lifeline button around her neck, and she pressed it.

Lifeline called Becky’s cell phone, but it was turned off. Unable to reach Becky, Lifeline called a neighbor who not only answered, but also had a key to Kathleen’s house.

When the neighbor entered, she found Kathleen on the floor, bleeding and saying her leg hurt. She quickly went downstairs to wake Becky. Unable to get Kathleen off the floor, they called 911.

Paramedics arrived and took Kathleen to the hospital where she received stitches in her hand and found out she had broken her hip.

Without Lifeline Emergency Response, Kathleen could have been on the floor for several hours suffering in pain and bleeding. Our family is so grateful for Lifeline. Becky is also upgrading her mother’s basic Lifeline service to include AutoAlert that detects a fall and automatically calls for help.

What happened to Kathleen could happen in any family. If you, or someone you know, are at risk of falling I encourage you to learn more about Oxford’s Lifeline Emergency Response System.

Don’t Slip and Fall: Steps to Staying Safe.

By: Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects

LifelineThere is snow and ice on the ground and the groundhog saw his shadow. So although we may be dreaming of spring, winter weather is here for now.

Slick streets and sidewalks are reminders to be careful—not just in the winter but at all times—of falling.

Anyone can slip and fall, but those 65 and older are at the greatest risk of moderate to severe injuries from falls.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports:

  • Falls cause over 95%  of hip fractures
  • People 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer compared to those ages 65-74

Protect yourself, or someone you love, with simple steps:

  • Spread salt or sand on icy surfaces—ask for help
  • Stay inside during icy, snowy weather unless absolutely necessary
  • Wear snow boots or shoes with good traction
  • Always have someone with you
  • Clear off porch, steps and driveway—ask a friend or neighbor to help
  • Install outdoor lighting

Indoors:

  • Use nightlights in hallways and bathrooms
  • Keep a flashlight by your bed
  • Watch out for clutter, small pieces of furniture, throw rugs, electrical cords, etc.—remove or rearrange items that can cause you to trip
  • Watch out for pets—they are wonderful companions, but also get under foot
  • Arrange furniture with plenty of space to walk around
  • Install handrails on both sides of stairways
  • Put items frequently used within reach
  • Try not to use a step stool—ask for help or use a stool with a handle bar
  • Be cautious of wet floors—especially when friends and family come visit and bring the wintery mix indoors
  • Install grab bars in your bathroom and rubber bath mat in shower or tub

Fear of falling is also dangerous. Unfortunately, many older adults do not report a fall to a family member or doctor if no injury occurred. This often turns into a fear of falling which leads to limited activity. Reducing mobility and loss of physical strength and fitness only increases the risk of falling.

If you are at risk of falling, or concerned about a loved one’s safety, Oxford HealthCare can help. Oxford’s Lifeline Personal Emergency Response System detects a fall and calls for help.

Just click here to learn more about Lifeline and peace-of-mind at the push of a button.