Home Care and Hospice

Fall Prevention Measures

What are the different Fall Prevention Measures?

Falls put you at risk of serious injury. Prevent falls with these fall-prevention measures.

The odds of falling each year after age 65 in the United States are about one in three. Fortunately, most of these falls aren't serious. Still, falls are the leading cause of injury and injury-related death among older adults. You're more likely to fall as you get older because of common, age-related physical changes and medical conditions — and the medications you take to treat such conditions.

You needn't let the fear of falling rule your life. Many falls and fall-related injuries are preventable with fall-prevention measures. Here's a look at six fall-prevention approaches that can help you avoid falls.

Falls and fall injuries:
  • Are more common than strokes and can be just as serious in their consequences
  • Are the most preventable cause of needing nursing home placement
  • Lead to problems with daily activities like dressing, bathing, and walking around
Among adults 70 years and older:
  • 3 in 10 fall each year
  • 2 in 10 who need home health care after being in the hospital will fall during the first month after coming home
  • 1 in 10 suffer a serious fall injury such as a broken bone or head injury
  • 5 in 10 have problems getting up without help after they have fallen
  • Falls cause over 90% of broken hips; only half of those who break their hip will get around like they did before their broken hip
  • In the United States, 16 percent of all Emergency Department visits and almost 7 percent of all hospitalizations are for fall-related injuries
6 ways to reduce your falling risk
Fall-prevention step 1: Make an appointment with your doctor
Begin your fall-prevention plan by making an appointment with your doctor. You and your doctor can take a comprehensive look at your environment, your health and your medications to identify situations when you're vulnerable to falling. In order to devise a fall-prevention plan, your doctor will want to know:
  • What medications are you taking?
    Include all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you take, along with the dosages. Or bring them all with you. Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling. To help with fall prevention, he or she may decide to wean you off certain medications, especially those used to treat anxiety and insomnia.
  • Have you fallen before? Write down the details, including when, where and how you fell. Be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but managed to grab hold of something just in time or were caught by someone.
  • Could your health conditions cause a fall? Your doctor likely wants to know about eye and ear disorders that may increase your risk of falls. Be prepared to discuss these and how comfortable you are walking — describe any dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath that affects your walk. Your doctor may then evaluate your muscle strength, balance and walking style (gait).
Fall-prevention step 2: Keep moving
If you aren't already getting regular physical activity, consider starting a general exercise program as part of your fall-prevention plan. Consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi — a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful dance-like movements. Such activities reduce your risk of falls by improving your strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. Be sure to get your doctor's OK first.
If you avoid exercise because you're afraid it will make a fall more likely, tell your doctor. He or she may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or give you a referral to a physical therapist who can devise a custom exercise program aimed at improving your balance, muscle strength and gait. To improve your flexibility, the physical therapist may use techniques such as electrical stimulation, massage or ultrasound. If you have inner ear problems that affect your balance, balance retraining exercises (vestibular rehabilitation) may help. These involve specific head and body movements to correct loss of balance.
clearFall-prevention step 3: Wear sensible shoes
Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall, so can walking in your stocking feet. Instead:
  • Have your feet measured each time you buy shoes, since your size can change.
  • Buy properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.
  • Avoid shoes with extra-thick soles.
  • Choose lace-up shoes instead of slip-ons, and keep the laces tied.
  • Select footwear with fabric fasteners if you have trouble tying laces.
  • Shop in the men's department if you're a woman who can't find wide enough shoes.
If bending over to put on your shoes puts you off balance, consider a long shoehorn that helps you slip your shoes on without bending over.
Fall-prevention step 4: Remove home hazards
As part of your fall-prevention measures, take a look around you — your living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways may be filled with booby traps. Clutter can get in your way, but so can the decorative accents you add to your home. To make your home safer, you might try these tips:
  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing.
  • Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting right away.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food and other household necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
  • Use nonskid floor wax.
  • Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower.
Fall-prevention step 5: Light up your living space
As you get older, less light reaches the back of your eyes where you sense color and motion. So keep your home brightly lit with 100-watt bulbs or higher to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Don't use bulbs that exceed the wattage rating on lamps and lighting fixtures, however, since this can present a fire hazard. Also:
  • Place a lamp near your bed and within reach so that you can use it if you get up at night.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren't near room entrances. Consider installing glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
  • Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs. This might require installing switches at the top and bottom of stairs.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.
Fall-prevention step 6: Use assistive devices
Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices can help, too. All sorts of gadgets have been invented to make everyday tasks easier. Some you might consider:
  • Grab bars mounted inside and just outside your shower or bathtub.
  • A raised toilet seat or one with armrests to stabilize yourself.
  • A sturdy plastic seat placed in your shower or tub so that you can sit down if you need to. Buy a hand-held shower nozzle so that you can shower sitting down.
  • Handrails on both sides of stairways.
  • Nonslip treads on bare-wood steps.
Ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist who can help you devise other ways to prevent falls in your home. Some solutions are easily installed and relatively inexpensive. Others may require professional help and more of an investment. If you plan on staying in your home for many more years, an investment in safety and fall prevention now may make that possible.

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