Tips to Prevent Trips and Falls in Your Home
If I were to ask you what the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans was, how would you answer?
Car accidents? Nope
House fires? Nope
Every second of every day in the U.S., an older adult takes a fall. And, every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
Falls are clearly a dangerous threat for older folks.
Not only can a fall mean serious complications or even loss of life, one often signals a loss of independence.
The last straw.
According to the National Council on aging, one in four Americans over the age of 65 fall each year.
Now, you would think with falls being so prevalent, doctors would make fall prevention a priority with their patients.
Unfortunately, that's just not the case.
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that physicians routinely failed to perform basic interventions to help prevent falls.
That means reducing your risk is up to you.
First thing you want to do is give yourself a little fall risk assessment with the "chair test."
To do the test you will need a chair, measuring stick, stopwatch (or timer on your phone), and a partner.
To begin, measure a 10-foot distance and place a chair on one end and your partner (with the stopwatch) on the other.
Sit in the chair and have your partner start the timer.
Once the timer begins, get up from the chair, walk the 10 feet, turn around and walk back to the chair.
The timer should stop once you're seated back in the chair.
If you take 13-19 seconds to be seated back in the chair, your mobility could be impaired and you may be at greater risk of falls.
A time of 20 seconds or more may mean more serious mobility problems.
If you find you are at risk of falls, you want to take some steps to reduce your odds of a tumble.
Like looking at the medications you take.
All too often, dizziness is a reaction – one with very dangerous consequences.
Sleeping pills and pain pills are two types of drugs that increase your risk of falling.
Also, a class of drugs called anticholinergics have been associated with a higher risk of falls.
Some cold medicines and drugs that control bladder problems fall into this class of drug.
If you're taking one of these types of drugs, talk to your doctor about other alternatives.
You should also take a walk around your house for potential fall hazards.
Do you have any rugs that curl up, or slide? Are there pet toys out in the open, where you could stumble?
What about your stair railings? Are they strong, secure?
Tighten things that need tightening. Remove slippery rugs. Nail down loose carpet corners, and pick up trip hazards from your floor.
And while you're at it, check the lighting in your home.
Poorly lit rooms can make it difficult to see fall dangers.
Put nightlights in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways and turn on lights before going up and down stairs. And if you're prone to nighttime waking, be sure there's an easy-to-reach lamp or flashlight beside your bed.
Speaking of your sight, when's the last time you had your eyes looked at?
Many of us have skipped regular checkups due to the pandemic, so if you're overdue for a visit to your optometrist, don't put off that appointment for too long.
Impaired vision can make it difficult to spot fall threats like curbs, steps, puddles and thresholds.
You know what else can prevent falls? Regular exercise.
But not just any exercise.
To prevent falls, you need exercises that focus on strength and balance, like tai chi.
Pre-pandemic, you could find tai chi classes in your local community center or area hospitals. But now, you may need to turn to online videos for instruction and guidance on the movements.
Of course, it's impossible to completely eliminate all fall risk.
But an ounce of prevention today could keep you from becoming another fall statistic.