Lower Your Fall Risk
September is Fall Prevention Month and a great time to assess your fall risk. More than one out of four people, age 65 and older, fall each year.
"Even the smallest of falls can cause serious injuries," says Jami Williams, Injury Prevention Coordinator at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. You can support the older adults in your life and help them remain safely and independently in their homes by decreasing their risk of a fall.
One of the most common complications of falls are hip fractures, which often result in long recoveries and may result in seniors losing their independence. The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to make your home safer and help prevent falls.
General Tips to Prevent Falls:
- Wear closed-toe shoes that fit well and support your feet. Wear shoes that have rubber soles or low heels.
- Use mobility aids such as canes, walkers, scooters, and crutches as needed.
- Review your medicines with your health care provider. Some medicines can cause dizziness or changes in blood pressure, which increase your risk of falling.
- Talk with your health care provider about other ways that you can decrease your risk of falls. This may include working with a physical therapist or trainer to improve your strength, balance, and endurance.
Tips for Fall Prevention In the Home:
- Use good lighting in all rooms.
- Place frequently used items in easy-to-reach places.
- Set up furniture so that there are clear paths around it.
- Remove throw rugs and other tripping hazards from the floor.
- Avoid walking on wet floors.
- Fix any uneven floor surfaces.
- Add color or contrast paint or tape to grab bars and handrails in your home. Place contrasting color strips on the first and last steps of staircases.
- Know where your pets are when moving through your home.
Fall Prevention in the Bathroom:
- Keep the floor dry. Immediately clean up any water that is on the floor.
- Remove soap buildup in the tub or shower regularly.
- Use nonskid mats or decals on the floor of the tub or shower.
- Attach bath mats securely with double-sided, nonslip rug tape.
- If you need to sit down while you are in the shower, use a plastic, nonslip stool.
- Install grab bars by the toilet and in the tub and shower. Do not use towel bars as grab bars.
Fall Prevention in Bedrooms:
- Make sure that a bedside light is easy to reach.
- Do not use oversized bedding that reaches the floor.
- Have a firm chair that has side arms to use for getting dressed.
Fall Prevention in the Kitchen:
- Clean up any spills right away.
- If you need to reach for something above you, use a sturdy step stool that has a grab bar.
- Keep electrical cables out of the way.
- Do not use floor polish or wax that makes floors slippery. If you must use wax, make sure that it is non-skid floor wax.
Fall Prevention on the Stairs:
- Do not leave any items on the stairs.
- Make sure that you have a light switch at the top and the bottom of the stairs.
- Make sure that there are handrails on both sides of the stairs. Fix handrails that are broken or loose. Make sure that handrails are as long as the staircases.
- Install non-slip stair treads on all stairs in your home.
- Avoid having throw rugs at the top or bottom of stairs, or secure the rugs with carpet tape to prevent them from moving.
- Choose a carpet design that does not hide the edge of steps on the stairs.
- Check any carpeting to make sure that it is firmly attached to the stairs. Fix any carpet that is loose or worn.
Fall Prevention Outside the Home:
- Use bright outdoor lighting.
- Regularly repair the edges of walkways and driveways and fix any cracks.
- Remove high doorway thresholds.
- Trim any shrubbery on the main path into your home.
- Regularly check that handrails are securely fastened and in good repair. Both sides of all steps should have handrails.
- Install guardrails along the edges of any raised decks or porches.
- Clear walkways of debris and clutter, including tools and rocks.
- Have leaves, snow, and ice cleared regularly.
- Use sand or salt on walkways during winter months.
- In the garage, clean up any spills right away, including grease or oil spills.
Sentara offers an Injury Prevention Program called Bingocize® in the Hampton Roads area -- this program combines exercise and health information with the familiar game of bingo, which is a great, fun way to get older adults moving and socializing.
Bingocize® is a 10-week program that combines a bingo-like game with exercise and health education. The unique addition of bingo addresses many of the barriers to older adults' participation because the game is fun, familiar, and done in a group setting. The program has been shown to increase older adults’ functional fitness, health knowledge, and social engagement in a variety of settings. The overall goals of the program are to help older adults improve and/or maintain mobility and independence, learn and use health information focused on falls reduction and other health-related behaviors, and socially engage with other older adults. A mobile app version is also available.
To learn more or sign up for Bingocize®, contact our Injury Prevention team by email at SNGH_InjPrev@sentara.com.
By: Amy Sandoval