Tips to Fall-Proof and Safeguard Your Home
By: Elder Law Associates PA Newsroom Staff
Elder Law Associates Newsletter dated September 24, 2019
Fall Prevention Awareness Day was last month but the need for fall prevention for seniors remains every day. Deaths from falling have been increasing sharply for elderly Americans. According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly 25,000 people over age 75 died as a result of falls in 2016. That figure is almost three times as many as in 2000. As you age, visual impairment, certain medications and health conditions, and physical weakness can all contribute to balance issues and the risk of falling. Your home can become hazardous without a fall-prevention strategy. Make your home safer for either yourself or elder loved ones by following a few recommendations to fall-proof your home:
If possible, move your bed/bedroom to the first floor to avoid having to go up and down stairs as much as possible. If and when you do need to use stairs, use a handrail or ask for assistance. Fix loose handrails or put in new ones and make sure handrails are on both sides of the stairs and are as long as the stairs.
Add grab bars in the bathtub and near the toilet and remove throw rugs, which are a common household hazard often contributing to slips and falls.
Exercise your legs daily to maintain muscle tone (i.e., go for short walks if possible).
Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water all day. Dehydration in seniors can lead to being disoriented and contributing to falls.
Have your physician review all of your medications and supplements for side effects and interactions that create a risk of falling and make adjustments as necessary to avoid dizziness and disorientation.
Schedule regular vision check-ups (at least annually) and update eyeglass prescriptions as necessary.
Consider taking a light exercise, water exercise or yoga class to improve strength and balance. Yoga is a wonderful low-impact, stretching exercise that help with relaxation, mood swings, breathing and fitness.
Move the furniture around as necessary to make a wide enough and clear path for walking. Remove loose rugs or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing, so the rugs won’t slip.
Remove hazards and clutter from the floor and stairs (boxes, newspapers, magazines, books, shoes, towels, plants, etc.).
Coil or tape wires and cords next to the wall to avoid tripping.
Add more lighting (and light switches) throughout your home but particularly at the top and bottom of stairs, in hallways, next to your bed, add a nightlight in your hallways and bathrooms, and illuminate the walkways into your home. Use fluorescent bulbs – they are brighter, more energy efficient and last longer. Ask a friend or family member for assistance when changing light bulbs. Store flashlights in easy to find locations in case of power outages.
Move food, cups and dishes to lower shelves in your cabinets (waist or shoulder level if possible).
If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool.
Put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower. Install grab bars inside the tub and next to the toilet. Consider adding a sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub with a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down.
Wear suitable shoes both inside and outside the house (avoid going barefoot, wearing slippers/loose socks, flip flops or high heels if possible). Use walking aids (cane, walker, etc.) as necessary.
Encourage your loved one to keep a cell phone with them wherever they go, even in the home, or add more phone extensions throughout the home and near the floor in case of falling. That way, you can reach the phone to call for help. If that’s not an option, consider wearing an alarm device that will bring help.
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