Tips for Fall Prevention in the Home
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries to older people in the U.S. Each year, more than 11 million people over age 65 fall-one in every three senior citizens. Dr. Geoffrey Westrich, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan and with an office in Fresh Meadows, Queens, has seen hundreds of patients who have suffered broken bones as a result of a fall. "The tragedy is that many times a fall could have been prevented if certain safety precautions had been followed," he says.
Dr. Westrich offers the following safety advice:
- Ensure that the home is free of hazards such as slippery floors, rugs that are not secured and poorly lit areas.
- Install handrails, grab bars and other safety devices.
- Wear properly-fitting shoes with nonskid soles.
- Engage in regular, moderate amounts of physical activity to maintain strength, coordination, agility and balance.
- Get an eye examination and physical each year, and wear glasses if needed.
- Check with your doctor about side effects of all your prescription and over-the-counter medications and take proper precautions. Medications can cause drowsiness and interfere with balance.
- Eat a nutritionally balanced diet with adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake.
Stairs and steps
- Make sure light switches are at both the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Provide enough light to see each step and the top and bottom landings.
- Keep flashlights nearby in case of a power outage.
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairway and be sure to use them.
- Do not leave objects on the stairs.
- Consider installing motion detector lights which turn on automatically and light your stairway.
- Put nonslip treads on each bare-wood step.
- Do not use patterned, dark or deep-pile carpeting. Solid colors show the edges of steps more clearly.
- Do not place loose area rugs at the bottom or top of stairs.
- Repair loose stairway carpeting or boards immediately.
- Install grab bars on the bathroom walls near the toilet and along the bathtub or shower.
- Place a slip-resistant rug adjacent to the bathtub for safe exit and entry.
- Mount a liquid soap dispenser on the bathtub/shower wall.
- Place nonskid adhesive textured strips on the bathtub/shower floor.
- Use a sturdy, plastic seat in the bathtub if you are unsteady or if you cannot lower yourself to the floor of the tub.
- Stabilize yourself on the toilet by using either a raised seat or a special toilet seat with armrests.
- Replace glass shower enclosures with non-shattering material.
- Clear clutter from the floor.
- Place a lamp and flashlight near your bed.
- Install night-lights along the route between the bedroom and the bathroom.
- Sleep on a bed that is easy to get into and out of.
- Keep a telephone near your bed.
- Arrange furniture to create clear pathways between rooms.
- Remove low coffee tables, magazine racks, footrests and plants from pathways in rooms.
- Install easy-access light switches at entrances to rooms so you won't have to walk into a dark room to turn on the light. Glow-in-the-dark switches may be helpful.
- Secure loose area rugs with double-faced tape or slip-resistant backing. Recheck these rugs periodically.
- Keep electric, appliance and telephone cords out of your pathways, but don't put cords under a rug.
- Eliminate wobbly chairs, ladders and tables.
- Do not sit in a chair or on a sofa that is so low it is difficult to stand up.
- Place carpeting over concrete, ceramic and marble floors to lessen the severity of injury if you fall.
- Repair loose wooden floorboards immediately.
- Remove throw rugs.
- Immediately clean up any liquid, grease or food spilled on the floor.
- Store food, dishes and cooking equipment at easy-to-reach waist-high level.
- Don't stand on chairs or boxes to reach upper cabinets. Use only a step stool with an attached handrail so you are supported.
- Repair loose flooring.
- Use nonskid floor wax.