In 2012, older adult falls led to $30 billion in medical costs, according to the CDC.
About one-third of adults over age 65 falls or slips every year, and millions end up in the emergency room or being hospitalized because of these incidents.
Falls and slips can jeopardize a senior’s sense of independence and increase his or her risk for injury. Even if an older adult isn’t injured after falling, it can lead to a fear of falling that will make the person timid about walking around and moving in general, which can lead to reduced mobility and muscle strength.
However, you can do several things to keep your senior safe and decrease the likelihood of a fall in the first place. Here are some helpful tips:
How to Prevent Falls & Slips
Before you make changes to your, your parent’s or grandparent’s home to prevent a fall, talk to a doctor about what may be causing your senior to fall or slip. Side effects from certain medications or underlying health conditions, such as an eye or ear disorder, can weaken mobility. Research shows that seniors who take four or more medications are at greater risk of a fall. If you’ve fallen before, take note of where you were when it happened and how you fell in the first place. This information could be helpful to your doctor.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the best thing to do after a fall is to remain mobile. Walking and continuing your normal daily activities helps to reduce the fear of falling again. You should also consider exercises, such as water aerobics, that can improve or maintain your mobility without requiring a lot of strenuous movement.
If you or your loved one has experienced a fall or slip, here are some other ways to prevent it from happening again:
- Wear comfortable shoes with a good grip. Flip-flops and even low high heels can increase some elderly people’s risk for a fall.
- Make everything accessible: Try not to store items you commonly use, like clothing and food, in hard-to-reach places. If something isn’t accessible, ask a younger relative or caregiver to get it for you. It’s better to ask for help than to risk an injury.
- Minimize clutter: Make sure electrical cords, phone cords and other wires are neatly tucked away. Repair any raised edges, bumps or uneven sections in your flooring. Also clean up any liquid or grease spills as quickly as possible. These things are all tripping or falling hazards.
- Light every room: Place light fixtures, lamps and nightlights in common areas, bedrooms, hallways and bathrooms to brighten areas that are typically dim. Make sure walking pathways are visible and clear, so that you don’t accidentally bump into an object and fall.
- Use assistive devices: A cane or walker also can prevent a fall by providing more stability as you move. Handrails on stairways and grab bars and armrests also provide added stability for seniors when they shower or use the bathroom. In addition, you can use non-skid rugs or floor pads to minimize the risk of falling.
If you or your loved one has fallen or is unable to walk after a fall or slip, go to the emergency room or visit a doctor as soon as possible. Falls in older adults can lead to serious injuries, such as hip fractures, so it’s better to be safe rather than sorry.