Each year, about 10,000 seniors die from injuries sustained in a fall. Additionally, one in three Americans over age 65 years experiences a fall each year. As an individual ages, the body experiences changes in vision, balance, bone density and muscle mass. In addition, older adults are more likely to take prescription medication, which can cause side effects such as blurred vision or loss of balance.
One-third of falls in older adults are a result of tripping over hazards in the home. Safety measures to prevent falls include:
Hallways and Walkways:
- Make sure there are no extension or telephone cords in walk areas.
- Remove all shoes from the walkway.
- Install handrails in hallways and stairways.
- Make sure the walking surface is smooth, not slippery or uneven. Remove throw rugs.
- Don’t use the stairs as a place for putting items.
- Make sure the area is well lit. Lamp switches should be easily reached without bending or reaching.
- Keep the floor area cleared of newspapers, toys and piles.
- In the kitchen and laundry area, make sure commonly used items are within easy reach.
In the Bathroom:
To prevent falls in the bathroom:
- Place a non-skid mat in the bathtub or shower.
- Install a grab-bar on the wall across from the toilet and in the shower or bath tub.
- Make sure items on cabinet shelves can be reached without a stool or a ladder.
- Install a raised toilet seat.
Outside the Home:
- Make sure sidewalks and driveways are free of cracks and uneven surfaces.
- Make sure these areas are well lit.
- Make sure there are no tools, rocks or other items left in walkways.
- Keep sidewalks and driveways clear of snow and ice.
In addition to taking these safety measures around the home, older adults can prevent falls by taking care of themselves. Tips include:
- Participate in any exercise program that can increase leg strength and balance.
- Review all prescription and nonprescription medicine with a physician or pharmacist. This will help eliminate any drug interactions that could cause loss of balance or blurred vision.
- Bad vision or problems with depth perception can contribute to falls. Because older adults most often wear glasses, it is important to make sure they have the right prescription.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet. In the event of a fall or emergency, medical professionals will be able to glean information about medical conditions, medicine allergies and contact information before providing treatment.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for 30 percent of adults age 65 and older who were injured in a bathroom fall in 2008, injuries resulted in a fracture. Of those 85 and older, 38 percent were hospitalized as a result of their injuries.