A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Simple tips to reduce falls at home

daughter with elderly fatherAs parents and grandparents age, we worry they may fall at home with no one around to help.

“Falls occur as people get older when their gait gets a little less certain and their vision gets poorer,” said, Dr. Thomas Gabert, a Marshfield Clinic internal medicine and geriatrics physician.

He compared fall prevention to improving safety on the road.

“We can do things to be safer drivers behind the wheel, like not drinking alcohol or taking too many medications,” he said. “We also do what we can to the environment to minimize accidents, like making wide roadways with shoulders and using bright lights.”

Making changes in several areas of your parents’ or grandparents’ homes will help them stay safe and independent.

Remove trip hazards

  • Remove throw rugs. Loose rugs can slide or cause a fall if they get caught underfoot.
  • Keep hallways and walkways clear.

Improve visibility

  • Use nightlights in hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Create contrast with bright colors. “As vision gets poorer, it’s harder to make out objects,” Gabert said. “Using brighter colors gives visually impaired people a better idea of where the wall or first stair is.”

Make bathroom modifications

  • Install handrails in the bathroom and bathtub. Railings prevent falls that can happen on wet, slippery surfaces.
  • Consider remodeling narrow bathrooms to make room for a walker. Falls can happen when trying to move around in a narrow space without support.

Reorganize the kitchen

  • Move frequently used items to lower shelves or cabinets. Falls from chairs or ladders used to reach objects on high shelves are common in the kitchen.
  • De-clutter countertops to avoid cuts and other injuries.

Don’t forget safety outside

Making the yard safe is important for older adults who enjoy spending time outside.

Repair loose steps; level uneven surfaces; and remove snow, ice and debris.

Older adults should wear flat, stable shoes outside, avoid carrying more than they can handle and ask family and friends to help with chores that involve ladders or strenuous work.

More fall prevention tips

Besides making changes in the home, older adults can take additional steps to prevent falls and stay safe at home.

  • Limit alcoholic drinks to one per day. Older adults process alcohol more slowly, and it takes fewer drinks to become impaired. Being impaired increases the risk of falling.
  • Review medications regularly with a primary care doctor. Some medications that cause drowsiness can put older adults at risk for falls.
  • Stay physically active to maintain balance. Check out this post about balance-building exercises.
  • Wear a wireless device that signals an emergency if the user falls.

Looking for more information on falls? Visit the health library for ways to make your health a priority and prevent falls.

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