Fall prevention is a high priority at MedStar Visiting Nurse Association. They are also the most common cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital visits for trauma. Falls among older adults are a serious concern, but research has shown that many fall risks can be reduced.
- Factors that Increase Fall Risk
- Identifying Fall Hazards
- How to Prevent Falls
- When to Talk to Your Doctor
Factors that Increase Fall Risk
There are many different factors that can increase the risk of falling. These include:
- Balance problems
- Memory problems
- Behaviors, like rushing
- Multiple medications
- Chronic diseases
- Past falls
- Poor vision
- Hazards in the home and community
- Problems walking
- Improper footwear
Identifying Fall Hazards
Each year, thousands of older people fall in their homes. Falls are often due to dangers in the home that are easy to fix.
- Remove rugs or use double-sided tape/non-slip backings to keep rugs in place.
- Eliminate items from walkways, such as boxes, bags and furniture
- Keep floors free of shoes, magazines, pets, etc.
- Tape electrical cords to the wall to prevent tripping
- Wrap or tie oxygen tubing next to where you are sitting. Ask someone to help with tubing when you walk.
Stairs and Steps
- Remove items on the stairs, like shoes, books and mail.
- Always turn on lights when walking on the stairs.
- Make sure there is a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Fix loose handrails or put in new ones.
- Add more handrails if there are not enough.
- Keep frequently used kitchen items, such as pots and cooking utensils, in a place where they are easy to reach.
- Wipe up spills immediately.
- Do food preparation seated to prevent fatigue or loss of balance. Use a sturdy chair with arms.
- Use a non-slip rubber mat or self-adhesive stick strips on the floor of the tub and shower.
- Keep tub/shower clean. Soap scum is slippery.
- Purchase a tub seat or bench to sit on while in the shower/tub
- Add grab bars inside the tub/shower and next to the toilet.
- Place a lamp close to the bed where it is easy to reach
- Use a night-light so you can see where you are walking
How to Prevent Falls
- Review your medicines. Bring all your medicines, vitamins, and supplements to your pharmacist and/or doctor at least once a year and/or when there are changes in your health. Ask about side effects and interactions, especially if you take four or more medicines.
- Have your vision checked every year by an eye doctor.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise makes you stronger and improves your balance and coordination.
- Wear shoes with a rubber bottom. Do not wear shoes with an open back, slippery dress shoes or bare feet. Avoid going barefoot or wearing only socks.
- Get up slowly after you sit or lie down.
- Make home safety improvements. Reduce clutter, improve lighting in rooms, hallways and stairwells, and install handrails and grab bars.
- Do not let pets roam under your feet. Pets are very easy to trip over.
- Beware of rugs. Remove all small area rugs. Secure larger rugs with rubber backing.
- Purchase assistive devices. Assistive devices, such as a cane, walker or raised toilet seat can improve your balance. Ask your doctor about what type of assistive devices may be best for you.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
One way to reduce falls is to speak with your doctor about how to reduce your risk. Talk to your doctor if you have experienced one of the following in the last six months:
- A fall, or a near fall (slip or trip)
- Problems with walking or balance
- Muscle weakness (especially in the legs)
- Loss of feeling or numbness in your legs or feet
- Swelling in your ankles or feet
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Dizzy or lightheaded, passed out or fainted
- Changes in hearing or vision
- Changes in your sleep
- Chronic conditions, such as: diabetes, arthritis, or high/low blood pressure
- Felt depressed for an extended period of time
- A fear of falling
- Problems doing daily activities at home, like bathing and getting dressed
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Can you refer me to an eye doctor to have my vision checked?
- Can you tell me which of my medicines may increase my risk of falling?
- Are there any assistive devices that can help me?
- Why type of physical activity can improve my balance?
- Can you refer me to homecare for a therapy and a home assessment?
- Are there community resources or classes that could help reduce my risk for falling?
To find out more about our home healthcare services, call: 800-862-2166.
Tips to Prevent Falls at Home
Watch this video to learn how to prevent falls at home.