Have you or someone you know ever experienced a fall? Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among those older than 65. One-third of people in the United States 65 and older fall each year, and that number increases to one in two by age 80.
Unfortunately, many falls occur in the home during routine activities and can result in injuries or lead to a fear of falling. This in turn limits participation in activities, leading to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness. The good news is that falls are preventable through therapy, exercise programs and education.
Take a moment to evaluate your home or the home of a loved one to decrease fall risk. Begin with the most commonly used entrance. Assess railings on stairs, lighting and the possible need for a ramp or nonskid surfaces.
Make your way through the house room by room. Look for clutter, loose cords and area rugs that can cause tripping or get tangled in a walker, cane or wheelchair. Be sure light switches and lamps are easily accessible, and install night lights where needed.
Move most commonly used items to shelves and drawers that can be reached easily, such as in the kitchen and bedroom closet. There might be a need to rearrange furniture or eliminate pieces to increase space for walking and turning.
The use of a nonskid mat in the tub/shower and grab bars, securely installed into studs in the wall, can increase safety in the bathroom. The addition of a seat for bathing or raising the height of the commode can increase independence and safety.
If you have received assistive therapy, be sure to always use the device recommended and wear shoes that stay securely on your feet and have rubber soles to prevent slipping.
If you are concerned about falling or would like to learn more to decrease your risk, communicate with your doctor and request an order for occupational therapy. Many changes are inexpensive and truly can increase safety and independence.