It is a problem that can cause serious consequences including broken bones, closed head injuries, bruising, and more. If you have an aging parent, friend, or neighbor, helping them to reduce their risk of falling is a great way to help them age in place and maintain their independence longer. Did you know that most falls can be prevented? Below you will find a list of the most common hidden dangers that lead to falls.
1. Tripping hazards. Let's face it, Americans love their "stuff" but a lot of the stuff we have been able to physically navigate during our younger years becomes a true danger as we age. Remove things likes boxes, newspapers, cords, magazine racks, and plant stands in high traffic areas. Use nonslip mats in bathtubs or showers. Get rid of those area rugs. Pets in particular pose a threat to slipping and tripping, too. See if you can coax Fido and Fluffy to choose a different place to take a nap rather than at their humans' feet.
2. Wear shoes. Sounds pretty easy, right? Many people are accustomed to wearing socks or ill-fitting slippers in the home. If your loved ones believe that shoes should be left outside the home or in the entry way and not worn in the residence, consider purchasing a pair of sneakers specifically to be worn in home and a different pair for wear outside the home.
3. Light the way. Keep the home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. A lot of older adults have difficulty with night vision. Place nightlights in the bedroom and leading to the bathroom. Even consider motion sensing lights that will turn on if your loved ones get up during the night.
4. Loose clothing. It is not uncommon for older adults to have many different sizes of clothing in their closets. I know I personally have a great variety clothes from pre- to post-pregnancy times and everything in between! Wearing loose-fitting clothing can become problematic if pants and shirts droop or even catch on door handles and furniture.
5. Grab bars and handrails. If your loved one has difficulty with mobility, grab bars and handrails are imperative for navigating stairs, getting on and off the toilet, and getting in and out of the bathtub/shower.
6. Move with intention. Oftentimes people fall because they move too fast from a sitting to a standing position. Encouraging them to pause momentarily as they begin to rise to a standing position can often allow your loved ones to get more secure in their balance.
7. Living on one level. If possible, decreasing the number of stairs your loved ones need to navigate will greatly decrease the risk of falls. Making living arrangements on one level is ideal.
8. Monitor medications. So many medications older adults take put them at increased risk of falling. Some medications make people dizzy, drowsy, and may even cause decreased blood pressure. Beware of over-the-counter medications as well. You would be surprised that a lot of medications younger people take have a very different effect on older adults, even if they have been accustomed to taking it for decades. It is important to discuss all medications with your physician including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements if you start noticing slips, trips, and falls.
9. Keep on keeping on! Maintaining physical fitness and activity really helps a person decrease the risk of falling. Exercises such as walking, yoga, and dance improve strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility. The senior center in your area is a great resource for physical activity classes.
Lifestyle and home modifications made safely and correctly can improve the quality of life for your friend or loved ones. Open and honest communication about your care and concern for a fall is a great first step to decrease risks.
If you find yourself needing to have this type of conversation with a loved one, join our online community of caregivers to continue this conversation. We have more than 200 family caregivers supporting each other and sharing resources.