How to Prevent Falls in Your Home
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 60 percent of falls happen at home. It makes sense: that’s where we spend most of our time. However, it can be easy to forget about personal safety.
As we age or recover from injuries or medical procedures, falling at home can be much more likely. Fortunately, there are many changes you can make to help you avoid falls and prevent injuries.
Changes to Make in Your Stairways, Hallways, and Other Pathways
- Install tightly-fastened handrails on both sides of the stairs. Make sure to hold the handrails whether you’re going up or down the stairs. If you have to carry something while you’re on the stairs, try to hold it in one hand and use the handrail with the other. Do not let the item you’re carrying block your view of the stairs.
- Make sure to have proper lighting with light switches at the top and bottom of stairs. Also, each end of long hallways should have light switches. Remember to use the lights when it’s dark!
- Keep the areas where you walk free of clutter. It’s easy to let things pile up, but don’t leave books, papers, clothes, and shoes on the floor or stairs.
- Make sure that all carpets are firmly attached to the floor so they won’t slip. Put non-slip strips on tile and wooden floors. Your local hardware store or websites like Amazon.com should have the strips.
- Even though you might like the look of them, don’t use throw rugs or small area rugs in your decor.
Changes to Make in Your Bathroom
- Mount grab bars near your toilets, and both inside and outside of your shower.
- Use non-skid mats, strips, or carpet on all surfaces that may get wet or slippery.
- Secure bath mats with double-sided rug tape.
- Always turn on night lights.
- Be sure to turn on the lights when you enter the bathroom. Light switches should be easily accessible.
- Clean your shower regularly to remove soap buildup.
Changes to Make in Your Bedroom
- Make sure your lamps or light switches are easy to reach from your bed.
- Keep a flashlight by your bed in case you lose power out and you need to get up.
- Keep your phone and charger near your bed. (Be sure to keep any charging cords tucked away so you don’t trip when you walk near your bed or get up.)
Changes to Make in Other Living Areas
- Keep electrical cords and telephone wires near walls and away from walking paths.
- Make sure all carpets and area rugs are firmly secured to the floor.
- Keep your walkways clear of furniture such as low coffee tables so you can move around your home easily.
- Make sure your couches and chairs are the right height for you to sit down and stand up from easily.
- Wait until newly-washed floors are dry before you walk on them.
- Keep the things you use often like your smartphone within easy reach.
- Instead of standing on a chair to reach for something that’s too high, use a “reach stick” or ask for help. You can buy reach sticks at may hardware stores, medical-supply stores, or online vendors. If you use a step stool, make sure it’s stable and has a handrail on top. For extra security, have someone stand next to you.
- Don’t let your pet trip you. Know where your cat or dog is whenever you stand or walk.
- Keep emergency numbers in large print near landline phones and save emergency numbers as ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts on your smartphone.
- If you fall and hurt yourself, your doctor might recommend that an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or nurse visit your home. These healthcare providers can assess your home’s safety and offer further suggestions about fall prevention.
Other Fall Prevention Tips
Making changes in your home can be a huge help when it comes to preventing falls. You should also consider doing these things:
- Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist about your medications’ effects. Some prescription and non-prescription drugs cause dizziness, light-headedness, and/or drowsiness that can lead to falls.
- Stay physically active. Regularly perform cardiovascular and strength training along with exercises to help improve your balance. A comprehensive exercise program can help keep your joints, tendons and ligaments flexible and may help slow bone loss from osteoporosis.
- Have your vision and hearing tested. Even slight changes in sight and hearing may lead to you falling. Make sure to test new glasses, contacts, or hearing aids and get used to them before you head outside. Hearing aids should fit well and if they don’t, tell your doctor.
- Limit alcohol consumption because it can impair your balance and slow your reflexes. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Studies show that the rate of hip fractures in older adults increases with alcohol use.”
- Don’t stand up too quickly. If you stand up slowly, your blood pressure is less likely to drop. If your blood pressure drops unexpectedly you can feel wobbly.
- Be extremely careful when you walk on wet or icy surfaces. A wet floor or an icy sidewalk can be very slippery. Wait for wet floors to dry before you walk on them. In the winter, spread salt on your driveway and walkways before freezing rain, sleet, or snow makes it difficult to walk safely.
- If you need to, use an assistive device when you walk. Canes, crutches, and walkers can help prevent falls if you use them the right way. If your doctor recommends an assistive device, make sure it’s the right size and that it works properly.
- Tell your doctor if you’ve fallen since your last appointment, even if you don’t get hurt. If you fall, it may help your doctor find a new medical problem or make necessary changes to your prescriptions. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy, an assistive device for walking, or other things you can do to avoid falling.
What to Do If You Fall
If you live alone and falling is a big concern, you may consider purchasing a medical alert system to contact emergency personnel if you need it. With a medical alert system, you wear a device that allows you to push a button and call for help. These systems usually come with monthly fees, but medical alert devices can help provide peace of mind.
Another option is to keep a cordless or smartphone with you or within reach at all times so you can call for help if you need to.
If you do fall, try to remain calm. Take some deep breaths to recover from the shock of falling, then assess whether you’re hurt — if you get up the wrong way, you could make an injury worse.
If you think you can safely get up without assistance, start by rolling over onto your side. Then get up on your hands and knees and crawl to the nearest sturdy chair.
Place your hands on the seat and slide one foot so it’s flat. Keep your other leg bent so your knee is still on the floor. Then, from your kneeling position, rise up and turn your body to sit.
If you injure yourself or can’t get up on your own, use your medical alert device or phone to call for help. Try to remain calm and comfortable until help arrives.
Fall Prevention Starts With You
If you think you’re at risk for falling, make sure your home is set up for fall-prevention success. You may be able to prevent a majority of falls by following a comprehensive plan of attack.
For example, have family and friends help you clear clutter or rearrange your furniture or get regular exercise if you don’t already.
Make a plan for what happens if you do fall. With the right plan and tools you can help prevent many falls and have more peace of mind.