Where Falls Stand
One of the greatest threats to senior wellbeing and quality of life is falling. In fact, falls represent the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries of American seniors. Here are a few key facts to highlight not only how pervasive falls are among this age group, but the toll they take:
- One out of every four American seniors falls each year
- Falls cause nearly 3 million injuries annually, with 800,000 hospitalizations and 27,000 deaths
- The cost of fatal injuries in 2014 was over $30 billion, and the financial toll is expected to double by 2020
- Nearly two-thirds of senior falls occur within the house
In addition to the physical and financial impact, the dread associated with falling can be enough to immobilize some older adults, making them afraid to do much of anything. And for those who already experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, fear of falling can often make matters worse. But fear should never get in the way of quality of life, even when it comes to falls in the home.
Although there are several factors involved in senior falls, one of the most significant is the hazardous nature of their living environment. Obstacles such as loose rugs, poor lighting, and the absence of handrails all pose a serious threat. Fortunately, these factors can be controlled. With a few alterations and additions, seniors can manage their living environment, thus reducing their risk of falling.
Adjustments to Make in the Home
In the Bedroom
- Ensure that night lights are installed so that there is adequate illumination.
- Keep an easy-to-use light source, such as a touch lamp, within reach of the bed.
In the Bathroom
- Install grab bars on the inside/outside of the shower, as well as next to the toilet.
- Place a non-slip mat in the shower and on all surfaces that may become wet.
- Install a shower chair or bath bench to reduce standing.
In the Kitchen
- Keep frequently used cooking utensils or appliances visible and on the counter or on nearby shelves, to reduce having to get them out of the cupboards.
- Install non-slip rubber mats to allow for secure footing.
In the Hallways
- Eliminate any form of clutter (boxes, newspapers, shoes, etc.) so that pathways are clear.
- Remove small throw rugs that may cause tripping.
- Ensure carpeting is firmly secured to the floor.
- Install nightlights to provide ample illumination.
- Move any electrical cords away from walking paths.
- Install a second handrail on staircases to allow for additional balance support.
Other Ways to Reduce the Risk of Falling
In addition to safety precautions in the home, there are lifestyle changes that seniors can make to reduce their risk of falling. First and foremost, it’s important to stay physically active. While this may seem counterintuitive and likely to result in a fall, frequently engaging in a safe, structured regimen will increase strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance. Always check with your physician before embarking on an exercise program.
Seniors should also receive regular eye examinations. Since even the smallest change in eyesight can change visibility, it’s crucial that they have the correct prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. Finally, medications should be reviewed with a physician to evaluate side effects and their chances of contributing to falls.
Comfort Keepers® Can Help
Even the idea of falling is frightening to older adults and family caregivers alike. But as mentioned, this fear should not stop seniors from leading fulfilling, independent lives. Observing safety precautions in the home and making the necessary changes are important first steps in getting back on track, but there may come a time when seniors need additional support. That’s where Comfort Keepers® comes in. We can assess the home and recommend changes conducive to fall risk reduction. In addition, our compassionate, professional caregivers can assist with everything from light housekeeping to incidental transportation.
Call your local Comfort Keepers location today to learn about how our services can benefit seniors in the community.
National Institute on Aging. “Fall-Proofing Your Home.” Web. 2018.
National Council on Aging. “18 Steps to Fall Proofing Your Home” by Scott A. Trudeau. Web. 2016.
National Council on Aging. “Fall Prevention Statistics.” Web. 2018.
WebMD. “Aging Well: Making Your Home Fall-Proof” by Healthwise Staff (Reviewed by Anne C. Poinier, MD and
Elizabeth A. Phelan, MD, MS. Web. 2015.
AgingCare. “How to Prevent a Senior from Falling” Web. 2018.