“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”
These words are a familiar pop culture punchline in commercials and memes, but they’re not so funny when you realize the phrase highlights a common threat, particularly to senior citizens — falls in the home.
Elderly fall statistics are staggering. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 senior adults fall each year, with most falls occurring in the home. Three million will end up in the emergency room. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults aged 65 and older. Many of those who experience a fall will llive with an injury that will impact their independence for the rest of their lives, such as a fracture or head trauma. 95% of hip fractures are a result of falls.
The good news is that you can prevent falls before they happen. Fall prevention strategies help minimize falls in the home and provide security, peace of mind and the confidence to live safely while still enjoying the things you like to do.
Simple Fall Prevention Strategies
Use the fall prevention tips below to make the necessary adjustments to your day-to-day living environment. If you’re caring for a loved one, you might encounter resistance when you recommend some of the suggestions below. When recommending these changes to a parent or loved one, make sure that they feel in control wherever possible. To begin, don’t try to make drastic changes all at once – that will be overwhelming and exhausting. Take yourself out of the equation and try to understand the situation from their perspective.
Medical Identification and Falls
A MedicAlert ID bracelet, necklace or shoe tag can help keep you or your loved one safer. While an ID can’t prevent a fall, it can protect your life. In an emergency, a MedicAlert ID quickly communicates critical health information to first responders, ensuring you or your loved one gets prompt and effective care at the moment it is most needed. Many people prone to falls have other medical conditions – such as diabetes or heart disease – that affect how you’re treated in an emergency. It’s important that first responders have access to that information right away.
Pairing your MedicAlert ID with a MedicAlert membership extends your protection far beyond the ID alone. Membership plan benefits include a detailed health profile that lists all your medical conditions, allergies, medications, implanted devices, emergency contact notification, physical notification and much more – the vital medical information that first responders need to treat you. Shop our collection of medical IDs here and find detailed information about our protection plans here.
If you or a loved one is at a high risk of falling, or has a chronic condition that limits mobility, consider pairing a MedicAlert membership plan with a fall detection system from our partner - Lifeline. The Lifeline medical alert system provides a push button device that can connect you to emergency contacts if you experience a fall. They have options with fall detection technology that will automatically alert loved ones if a fall is suspected.
Home Fall Risk Assessment
When it comes to home safety, fall prevention and the elderly falling, the best rule is: never assume! Without adequate safety measures, a typical morning can result in the end of independent living for someone who slips and falls just walking to the bathroom.
Use these general helpful hints to make your home safer from falls:
- Don’t try to carry too many things at once. Have a place near the door to put packages and groceries down while you close the door and get ready to put items away.
- Keep your home well-lit; especially stairways, hallways, porches, and outside walkways.
- Where necessary, add extra light switches, remote switches or motion-activated lights. that go on or off with the clap of hands).
- Be careful when reaching for items. Use a reaching device, don’t climb for items on the top shelves, and store your most commonly used household items on lower shelves for easy reach.
- Be sure to periodically assess your medications with your doctor. Some medications or combinations of drugs can cause you to be more prone to falls.
You can take this one step further – and do a fall risk assessment for every room in the house. Simply take a walk around your home or the home of your loved one to identify where you need to make some adjustments to specific living areas. If you don’t know what to look for or where to begin – below is a fall prevention checklist to get you started.
Fall Prevention Checklist
- Remove throw rugs, or secure them with double-sided carpet tape
- Use night lights to ensure proper lighting throughout the house
- Remove or zip tie loose cords and electrical wires
- Use no-skid, no-wax flooring
- Repair or replace worn carpet
- Avoid leaving anything on the floor in high-traffic areas
Stairs and Hallways
- Install handrails at the appropriate height
- Make sure all steps are even
- Clear all objects from stairs
- Ensure carpet or stair runners are secure, with no gaps or buckles
- Remove area rugs at the top or bottom of the stairs
- Watch out for a single step – often people trip when there is a single step
- Don’t stand on countertops
- Don’t stand on kitchen chairs
- Consider not using floor wax
- Use a sturdy stepstool, preferably with handrails
- Clean spills immediately, don’t walk on floors until they are completely dry
- Install grab bars in the shower
- Use rubber mat or strips in the shower/tub
- Install a tub rail if you have a tub
- Use a raised toilet seat or toilet rails
- Clean up all water around the tub, shower and sink
- Use a nightlight
- Remove bathroom rugs or secure them to the floor
- Repair any broken steps, and repair holes in walkways or driveways
- Ensure all stairs and pathways are brightly lit
- Remove any roots that protrude from the ground and create a trip hazard
- Install handrails on any flight of steps outside
- Keep steps, sidewalks, decks, and porches clear of newspapers, sticks, rocks, wet leaves, and other debris
- Clean spills immediately, especially oily ones on concrete or asphalt
Source: AARP, Fall Prevention Checklist.
The solutions above may seem easy, but change can sometimes be hard, particularly for seniors. Being an active senior is important to physical and mental health; a fall with resulting injuries can sideline even the most active senior. Recovering from a traumatic fall can be extremely difficult and take a long time. Those who have experienced a fall are often very hesitant to venture out on their own again, even with a strong desire to be independent.
Be patient, do your research and take the time to educate yourself or your loved one about the fall prevention changes that you’d like to implement in and around the home. Most importantly – take action. Any steps you take to reduce your risk of falls will help minimize a very real risk to your long-term health and safety.