If you have a loved one who is older and you are concerned about their risk of falling, your fear is not unfounded. According to the CDC, more than one in four people aged 65 and older fall each year, and of those, one in five spills will result in broken bones, concussions, or other serious injuries.
By making some simple changes around the home and taking a few precautions, we can minimize the risk that our loved ones will fall and get hurt. Let’s take a look at ten ways we can reduce the chances of Mom or Dad taking a potentially dangerous tumble:
- Schedule an annual eye exam. Vision is a significant risk factor for causing falls. A change in prescription, confusion caused by progressive or bifocal lenses, or even an eye impairment can make your loved one miss a step or misjudge distances.
- Check in with doctor or pharmacist. Medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, or even a Vitamin D deficiency can cause instability and increase the risk of a fall. Have the doctor or pharmacist take a look at both prescribed and over-the-counter medications your loved one is taking to assess the risk of dizziness or balance issues.
- Remove hazards. Look around your loved one’s homes for items that could pose a threat, including shoes or boxes on floors, mail left on stairs, spills on the floor, or cords and wires across walking paths. Even beloved pets can get underfoot and trip your loved one.
- Improve lighting. Check for dark areas in each room. If there is only one light switch in a room, hallway, or stairwell, have an electrician add switches at the opposite end so your loved one won’t have to walk through a dark area to turn on lights. Add night lights to help them navigate to the restroom in the middle of the night. If your loved one’s home is automated, consider adding technology that turns lights on by voice command or plug lamps into special sockets that will allow your loved one to turn on lights using a remote control.
- Widen paths. Imagine you are using a walker or in a wheelchair and take a walk through your loved one’s home. Is furniture placed too close together, limiting the width of the aisles, or is there unnecessary furniture in the house? Consider rearranging the furniture or removing extra end tables or unused chairs to give Mom or Dad the room they need to move around safely.
- Add safety equipment. Make sure each stairwell has at least one railing, and if you can, add another one on the opposite wall to help your loved one steady themselves. If your loved one is suffering from mobility issues, look into canes or walkers to improve their stability. The bathroom, in particular, poses many fall risks. Consider putting an arm attachment on the toilet or a grab bar on the wall next to the toilet to make it easier for your loved one to stand up. Put a shower chair in the bathtub, non-slip mats on the bathtub floor, and add a hand-held shower, so your loved one does not have to stand.
- Inspect the flooring. Check for uneven flooring, tiles that are peeling up, or raised thresholds that can pose a hazard. Remove throw rugs or secure them to the floor using double-sided tape.
- Move items to lower shelves. Reduce the need for your loved one to get on a step stool by moving commonly used items to lower cabinets, so they’re easily within reach.
- Be aware of surroundings outside the home. If you are taking your loved one out and about, whether that’s to a store, a restaurant, or a friend’s house, make sure the facility is adequately equipped with wide aisles, secure railings on steps, and grab bars in the restrooms.
- Encourage your loved one to stay active. Being healthy and active helps increase stability and strength, two factors that can reduce the chance your loved one will lose their balance and suffer a fall.
No matter how much prevention you take, you should still prepare your loved one in case of a fall. Consider giving them an emergency alert necklace or bracelet so they can call for help if they can’t get up. Remove locks on interior doors so emergency personnel can easily get to Mom or Dad. And even if your loved one doesn’t appear injured, bring him or her to the doctor. The doctor can look for signs of internal injury or a medical condition that might have caused the spill. Anything you can do to prevent future falls is a measure worth taking.