Preventing Falls at Home
Changes in vision, ability, strength, medication use, and health status can contribute to more falling. Falls are common among older adults and may lead to fractures, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and long-term care. Most falls tend to happen between 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. It is important to remind your loved one to:
- Ask for help getting up from their chair or bed or doing any activity they know they cannot do alone.
- Sit at the edge of the bed before standing to reduce dizziness.
- Take their time when moving around; do not rush! Use a walker or cane as recommended by their physician or therapist.
- Turn the lights on as they enter rooms and hallways and use nightlights.
- Keep the items they use most often at arm’s reach (e.g., TV remote, light, telephone, water, etc.).
- Wear supportive shoes or slippers and adequately fitting clothing.
- Wear their hearing aids and glasses while they are awake.
- Ask their doctor or nurse which medications may make them feel drowsy or less alert.
Each year, many people are injured in and around their homes. Many of these injuries happen from things that are easy to overlook but also easy to fix. Many injuries can be prevented by spotting these hazards and taking some simple steps to correct them. Below are a few simple things that can be done to avoid injuries:
1. Check All Cords
Cords stretched across walkways may cause someone to trip.
- Arrange furniture so that lamps and appliances plug right into outlets—without extension cords.
- If you must use an extension cord, place it on the floor against a wall where no one can trip over it. Move the phone so that the cord will not cross where you or others walk.
Furniture resting on cords can damage them, creating fire and shock hazards.
- Remove cords from under furniture or carpeting.
- Replace damaged or frayed cords.
- Check wires for damage.
2. Check All Rugs, Runners, and Mats
Tripping over rugs and runners is a common injury cause.
- Remove rugs and runners that tend to slide.
- Apply double-faced adhesive carpet tape or rubber matting to the backs of rugs and runners.
- Purchase rugs with slip-resistant backing.
- Place rubber matting under rugs. (Rubber matting that can be cut to size is available.)
3. Check the Condition of the Steps
Worn treads or loose carpeting can lead to slips and falls.
- Avoid wearing only socks or smooth-soled shoes or slippers when using stairs.
- Ensure the carpet is firmly attached to the steps all along the stairs.
- Consider refinishing or replacing worn treads or replacing worn carpeting.
- Paint outside steps with paint that has a rough texture or use abrasive strips.
- Remove all objects from the stairway.
- Mark any narrow steps or have risers that are higher or lower than the others. Be especially careful of these steps when using the stairs.
4. Check the Handrails
The handrail should provide a comfortable grip and should always be used when climbing up or going down the steps. A handrail that doesn’t extend continuously for the entire length of the stairs can be dangerous. Someone unfamiliar with the stairs might think they have come to the last step when the handrail stops. This kind of misjudgment at the previous step can cause a fall.
- Be sure a handgrip is available for even one step.
- Repair broken handrails.
- Tighten fixtures that hold handrails to the wall.
- If no handrails are present, install at least one handrail.
- While using the stairs, use extreme caution on the first and last steps, especially when the handrail begins beyond the first step or ends before the last step.
- Replace a short handrail with a longer one.
5. Check lighting
- Stairs should be lit so that each step, particularly their edges, can be seen while going up and down them.
- The lighting should not produce glare or shadows along the stairway. Even if you are very familiar with the stairs, lighting is essential in preventing falls. You should be able to turn on the lights before you use the stairway from either end.
- If no other light is available, keep an operating flashlight conveniently at the top and bottom of the stairs.
6. Check Passageways
Furniture, boxes, and other items can make you trip or block your way in the event of an emergency or fire.
- Rearrange furniture to open passageways and walkways.
- Remove boxes and clutter.
7. Check the Telephone Area
- In the case of an emergency, keep the telephone numbers for the police, fire department, local poison control center, and a neighbor clearly posted.
- Write numbers in large print and tape them to the phone or place them near the phone where they can be seen easily. Have at least one telephone in a place where you can still reach it even after an accident that leaves you unable to stand.
8. Check Medications
Medications that are not clearly and accurately labeled can be easily confused. Taking the wrong medicine or missing a dosage of medicine you need can be dangerous.
- Be sure that all containers are marked with the contents, doctor’s instructions, expiration date, and patient’s name.
- Dispose of outdated medicines properly.
- Request non-child-resistant closures from your pharmacist only when you cannot use child-resistant closures.
NOTE: Many poisonings occur when children visit their grandparents through the medicine cabinet or grandmother’s purse. In homes where grandchildren or other youngsters are frequent visitors, medicines should be purchased in containers with child-resistant caps, and the caps should be properly closed after each use—Store medicines beyond the reach of children.
9. Check All of the Rooms in the Home
Grab bars can help you get into and out of your tub or shower and can help prevent falls.
- Check existing bars for strength and stability, and repair if necessary.
- Attach grab bars through the tile to structural supports in the wall or install bars specifically designed to attach to the sides of the bathtub. If you are not sure how it is done, get someone qualified to assist you.
- Check Bathtubs and Shower Areas; Wet soapy tile or porcelain surfaces are incredibly slippery and may contribute to falls.
- Apply textured strips or appliqués on the floors of tubs and showers.
- Use non-skid mats in the tub or shower and on the bathroom floor.
- If you are unsteady on your feet, use a stool with non-skid tips as a seat while showering or bathing.
- Check the Water Temperature. Water temperature above 120 degrees Fahrenheit can scald you.
- Lamp switches close to each bed will help you see where you’re going when you get up at night.
- Rearrange furniture closer to switches or move lamps closer to beds.
- Install night lights. Fire is one of the top five causes of unintentional injury deaths in US adults aged 65 and older.
- Remove sources of heat or flame from areas around beds.
- Don’t smoke in bed.
- “Tucking in” electric blankets or placing additional coverings on top of them can cause excessive heat buildup, which can start a fire.
- Use electric blankets according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Don’t allow anything on top of the blanket while in use (including other blankets, comforters, and even pets sleeping on top of the blanket).
- Don’t set electric blankets so high that they could burn someone who falls asleep while they are on.
- Never go to sleep with a heating pad if it is turned on because it can cause severe burns, even at relatively low settings.
- In case of an emergency, it is crucial to be able to reach the telephone without getting out of bed.
At MJHS, we value both personal and professional caregivers and recognize the critical work you do. That is why we have created these online caregiving resources to help you through this crucial time in your life.
If you need additional help and support caring for your loved one, please feel free to contact MJHS. We can recommend other care options available to you through one of our programs.