Preventing Falls at Home
| Posted On Jun 29, 2011 | By: Jay Cigna
As we age, our likelihood of taking a fall in our home increases dramatically. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. Among those age 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury death as well as the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
Statistics show that 60% of falls happen in the home, while 30% happen in a public setting and only 10% in a health care facility. The most common place for falls in the home is the bathroom, so that may warrant the most focus when assessing risk. A CDC report shows that 65.8 per 100,000 falls happened in or around the tub or shower, followed by 22.5 per 100,000 injuries were sustained on or near the toilet while standing up from, sitting down on, or using the toilet.
Some reasons for a fall are muscle weakness, postural control, medical conditions and the environment. If you believe you or a loved one are at increased risk for a fall, a physical therapist can perform gait assessments as well as home hazard assessments and modifications, including recommending adaptive equipment such as shower stools, toilet seat risers and stair lifts.
Here are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of falls:
- If you are experiencing symptoms such as dizziness, numbness, joint pain or shortness of breath, contact your doctor’s office immediately or seek medical attention.
- Your doctor or pharmacist can review your medicines – both prescription and over-the-counter – to determine side effects and interactions that may cause dizziness or drowsiness.
- Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update your eyeglasses to maximize your vision.
- Exercise such as Tai Chi or yoga can help increase leg strength and improve balance.
- Remove clutter in high traffic areas.
- Install a night-light along the route between your bedroom and bathroom.
- Remove or secure loose area rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or slip-resistant backing.
- Install hand rails and/or stair lifts if you are unstable on your feet.
- Install grab bars in tubs, showers and next to toilets.
- Put non-slip strips in your tub or shower.
- Have a bath matt with a non-skid bottom next to the tub or shower.
- Use a shower or tub seat with a hand held shower fixture.
- Keep floors clean and dry, wipe up any spills immediately.
- Place items in your cabinets within your reach rather than using a step stool.
If you do fall, follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:
- Try not to panic.
- Take several deep breaths and assess the situation.
- If it hurts to move or you think you may have a broken bone, call for assistance and call 911.
- If you are able to move without moderate to severe pain, slowly crawl to a safe sturdy piece of furniture, like a chair. Approach the chair from the front and put both hands on the seat. Pull yourself up by bringing your stronger knee forward and keeping your other knee on the floor. Slowly begin to rise and twist around so you can sit upright and adjust to the chair.
- Assess your symptoms and contact your health care provider or 911 if you think you may have incurred any injury as a result of your fall.
It’s important to take the time to assess risk factors for a fall and make the necessary adjustments to help avoid a serious or life threatening injury to yourself or a loved one.