Accident Prevention for Seniors – Avoiding Falls

Falls are hard on anyone, but potentially more serious for seniors and the elderly.  A fall can lead to broken bones, broken hips, soft tissue injury, emergency room visits, and  long-term damage that leads to a nursing home.

The best way to treat a fall?  Prevent it!

Obviously, it’s impossible to prevent every fall. But you can take several  simple steps to reduce the possibility of a fall or accident. Some are low cost or free, but others can require significant investment.

  • Look for and remove any loose carpets or rugs that might cause them to trip.  Remove or move any tables, chairs,  or other obstructions that could interfere with easy navigation in the house. Conduct your research not only in the light of day, but at night.  A table or chair that seems safe during a sunny afternoon may be more risky when your father gets up during the night.
  • Install enough night lights to keep the area illuminated when your mother turns off the room lights. Install one or two extra because night lights do burn out, and you want extra coverage to handle that situation.
  • Examine their favorite chairs.  Are they too low? Do they need a pillow or cushion to give them enough support to get in and out, without losing balance?
  • Determine if they need grab bars in the bathtub or shower.  Too many grab bars can be just as bad as none.  You may want to consultant a carpenter or handyman who is very experienced with grab bars in the shower or bath. If the senior has mobility issues, call on a physical or occupational therapist to recommend the locations.  If at all possible, involve the senior in this decision.  Avoid grab bars that rely on suction — they can eventually work loose, and usually at the worst time.
  • Check the bathroom carefully: are the toiletries in easy reach? What if they  run out of toothpaste?  Can they get to the replacement tubes without straining or bending? Are there rugs that could cause them to trip?
  • Do they need a riser with bars on the toilet?  The answer may be “no” today, but “yes” tomorrow, and you will have little warning when tomorrow comes. Consider adding those features now, even if your mother insists they are not needed.  
  • Look at the stairs. Do they have handrails?  
  • How do they leave the house?  Do the exits and entrances have rails to help steady them?
  • Review the kitchen with a critical eye.  Are their cooking supplies within easy reach?  Do they strain or reach to get basic items?
  • How do they carry groceries? Do they need a cart to help them between the car and the kitchen?
  • Replace rugs with the non-slip variety.
  • Look at the bedroom.  Consider any obstacles that night be difficult to see in the dark, especially in the path between the bed and the bathroom.
  • Replace any burned out bulbs with long lasting bulbs.
  • Watch your loved one walk — do they seem to have any difficulty in balance?  If so, consult their doctor. 
  • If they use a cane or walker, do they need a spare? Walkers are harder to lose, but canes can and do seem to disappear.  A second cane in the house can help prevent a fall.
  • Do a “Day in the Life of” exercise.  Pretend you are the senior, and walk where they would walk during a typical day, and do the typical things they do.  You may see unexpected accident dangers that can you can prevent.
  • Finally, be sure to ask the senior where in the house or grounds they feel shaky, unsteady, or nervous. The answers may suggest other areas that need attention.

For more information about preventing falls, please see:

  1. Mayo Clinic
  2. Center for Disease Control
  3. National Institutes of Health
  4. WebMD
  5. Hebrew Senior Life
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