Falls are hard on anyone, but much more serious for 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 require some investment.
- Identify and remove any loose carpets or rugs that might cause her to trip or stumble. Remove or rearrange 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 OK 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 he turns off the lights. Install one or two extra because night lights do burn out, and you want some extra coverage to handle that situation.
- Examine their favorite chairs. Are they too low? Does he need a pillow or cushion to give him enough support to get in and out, without losing balance?
- Determine if he needs grab bars in the bathtub or shower. Too many grab bars can be just as dangerous as none. You may want to consultant a carpenter or handyman who is experienced with installing 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 he runs out of toothpaste? Can he get to the replacement tubes without straining or bending? Are there rugs that could cause him to trip?
- Does he 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 father insists they are not needed.
- Look at the stairs. Do they have handrails?
- How does he leave the house? Does the exit and entrance have rails to help steady him?
- Review the kitchen with a critical eye. Are his cooking supplies within easy reach? Does he strain or reach to get basic items? Can he safely bend down to load and empty the dishwasher?
- How does he carry groceries? Does he need a cart to help him between the car and the kitchen?
- Replace rugs with the non-slip variety.
- Look at the bedroom. Consider any obstacles that might 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 him walk — does he show any difficulty in balance? If so, consult his doctor.
- If he uses a cane or walker, does he need a spare? Walkers are harder to lose, but canes are infamous for occasionally “walk away”. 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 he does. You may see unexpected accident dangers that can you can prevent.
- Finally, be sure to ask him where in the house or grounds they feel shaky, unsteady, or nervous. The response may suggest other areas that need attention.
For more information about preventing falls, see: