Simple Steps to Avoid Trips and Falls

Older Woman FallingFalls Prevention Awareness day may have passed, but it is never a bad time to take steps to prevent avoidable trips and falls, particularly for older adults. According to the National Council on Aging, one in three Americans aged 65+ fall each year.

“We know older adults make up the at-risk population when we begin thinking about preventing falls. A few environmental changes prove to be very helpful, but an inter-disciplinary approach is often best,” said Pamalyn Kearney, assistant professor of occupational therapy at USciences.

Kearney and Carol Maritz, associate professor of physical therapy, urge older adults and those caring for loved ones to make a few changes this season.

Fall Prevention Tips:

  • Clean up that clutter—clear pathways are essential for older adults. Think twice before leaving items on stairs and evaluate placement of a pet’s food dish. Also, consider eliminating throw rugs—they can wrinkle easily or slide across the floor.
  • The bathroom can be one of the most hazardous rooms in the house. Use rubber mats to keep the tub surface from becoming slippery and install grab bars for stability. The wall soap dish and towel rack are not meant to hold human weight and can be very dangerous to use as support.
  • Use a strategically placed nightlight since it takes time for human eyes to adjust at night. Check the lighting on stairs and remember, light that is too bright can cause a glare, making it just as dangerous as poor lighting.
  • Older adults should carry a cellphone or a life support button at all times—even in the house—to summon help quickly.
  • Are appliances and dishes frequently used in the kitchen within easy reach? If not, reorganize. Only use a stepstool with a handle, not a dining room chair.
  • Many older adults use their cane or walker only when they go out but in reality, they are no steadier in their own home. Unlike your assistive devices, grabbing furniture presents a risk because it can move or break.

Beyond these environmental modifications, Kearney and Maritz recommend older adults take an inclusive approach to their well-being. They should be doing strength-building exercises and a meeting with doctors to discuss medications. In addition, a physical therapist can help determine a person’s deficits and recommend a variety of resources, while an occupational therapist can evaluate how a person goes about their daily activities and suggest lifestyle changes.