Fall Prevention for the Elderly at Home
As people age, it becomes necessary to make changes in order to prevent
falls. For adults age 65 and older, falling can be a major event, resulting
in long term hip injury and signaling that it is no longer safe to live
alone. According to the
CDC, 734,000 people were admitted to a hospital as a result of a fall in 2013.
Of that number, 25,500 older adults died as a result of accidental falls.
Thankfully, it is possible to prevent falls. Aging alone does not cause
falls, and injuries from falling are not inevitable. With a small amount
of preparation and thinking ahead, and maybe a few lifestyle changes,
elderly adults can continue to live active, healthy, confident lives without
fear of falling.
Preparing Your Home to Prevent Falls
Most falls occur in the home during everyday tasks. By utilizing a few
ideas and identifying potential problems before they occur, you can keep
yourself safe with relatively little effort. The key to preparing well
is understanding that caution is not a weakness. Even if you feel that
a particular area of your home will not be an issue, it’s best to
prepare it anyway. While you may not have a problem navigating, say, your
bedroom, there are other factors (such as time of night, grogginess, medication,
or fatigue) that could affect your balance adversely.
Thinking ahead with honesty is what will keep you from falling in almost
all cases. If you still feel that you need assistance after taking these
precautions, consider services such as caregiving to help you with daily
tasks or ADLs and to ensure that someone is always at hand. The greatest
prevention strategy is the presence of professional caregivers.
How Do I Make My Bathroom Safer?
The bathroom is the most obvious area of the home to make fall-proof. The
main principle here is to ensure that there are no slick or unsteady surfaces.
Covering tile with cloth or non-slick, textured rubber will go a long
way toward making you feel confident in your balance.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your bathroom is safe,
no matter how you’re feeling:
Cover slick surfaces with non-skid mats, preferably with cloth or fabric
textures that won’t be slippery, and tape them down.
- Textured, non-slip mats for the inside of the shower as well!
- Have grab bars installed in the shower to steady yourself.
Use a hand-held nozzle to allow for bathing while sitting.
- Consider placing a sturdy seat inside the shower if you’re not confident
in your ability to stabilize yourself that day.
- Install a raised toilet or one with arm rests, to making sitting down and
getting up easier.
How Do I Make My Bedroom Safer?
The key to making your bedroom safe is to ensure that you have easy access
to light before your feet are on the ground and that your normal pathways
are clear at all times.
Here’s what you can do:
- Install lamps next to the bed, on both sides if possible. That way, you
always have access to them.
- Always pick up anything off the floor during the day that might trip you
up (clothes, shoes, and grandchildren’s toys, etc.).
- Keep a pathway to the bathroom that is direct and clear of any furniture.
- Keep nightlights attached to the wall, particularly between the bed and
Anything that allows you to take confidence in your steps before you begin
walking is beneficial to you here. Walking in the dark is a major risk
to older adults.
How Do I Make My Stairs Safer?
Stairways are a major risk to elderly adults who are already liable to
fall. However, that does not mean that living with stairs makes falling
The precautions you can take include:
- Installing handrails on both sides of the stairs, which should run the
full length of the stairs.
- Make sure all uneven or unsteady steps are immediately fixed.
- Keep the stairway clear of any objects at all times.
- Install lights above both ends of the stairway.
- Consider adhering non-stick mats to the stairs to allow for better grip
when you walk.
Preparing Your Body to Prevent Falls
In addition to making your home a safer environment, one of the best things
you can do to prevent falls is physical exercise. Safe exercise types,
such as water exercise classes, yoga, or tai chi, are effective ways of
building balance and muscle stability. If you have been afraid of physical
activity due to fear of falling, tai chi may be a particularly effective
prevention method. According to a
PubMed study, doing tai chi 3 times a week reduced the risk of falling in older adults by 55%!
Doctors are also a powerful resource for helping you with fall prevention.
Their knowledge of your health allows them to give you the clearest advice
about your risk of falling (factoring in age, medication, and health conditions).
They can also recommend medication that may prevent dizziness or loss
of balance, or limit medication that causes it. Also, annual vision checks
will allow you to keep an eye on your risk factors on a yearly basis.
You can also consult with your doctor about changing your walking style,
or gait, to ensure that you walk with maximum balance and strength. As
always, consult with your medical provider before beginning any exercise
regimen. Many doctors can recommend physical therapy programs that will
allow you to build strength on a daily basis, allowing you to be free
from fear as you live an active life.