Preventing slips and falls can be key to protecting your elderly loved ones, especially if they live independently. If your elderly loved one faces mobility challenges, it’s important to have a solid plan to prevent falls in the home. In this article, we’ll investigate the causes of falls in the elderly and how to prevent falls with a fall risk assessment for your home.
What Causes Falls In The Elderly?
Many people find themselves experiencing vision problems, muscle weakness and stiff joints as they grow older — all of which can make elderly mobility more challenging and lead to an increased risk of falls in the elderly. Recurring falls may also signal an undiagnosed health issue, or occur as a result of medication, sensory or balance issues, insufficient exercise, short-term illnesses like the flu, a poor diet, dehydration, or even recovery from surgery.
Fall Prevention in the Elderly
Falls are a major health issue in Australia with around one-third of adults older than 65 experiencing at least one fall per year. These falls can sometimes result in hip and wrist fractures, hip and shoulder dislocations, head injuries, abrasions, bruising and sprains. Experiencing a fall may also trigger a loss of confidence in one’s ability to move safely around one’s home.
Caring For Elderly Parents: How To Avoid Falls
Many falls in the elderly can be prevented by taking simple, proactive steps toward fall prevention.
Here are some simple steps you can take to avoid falls:
- Conduct a fall risk assessment and take steps to improve safety in and around your home
- Look after your health: Stay up to date with routine health checks, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly to improve your balance, strength and flexibility. Home or group exercise programs and tai chi may be beneficial.
- Wear shoes that are comfortable and fit well: Shoes should be wide enough in the toe area and have low or no heels with slip-resistant soles.
Fall Prevention In The Elderly Checklist: Improving Safety Inside The Home
To improve safety inside the home and reduce the risk of falling
- Keep your home brightly-lit: Make sure your home is well-lit to avoid tripping on hard-to-see objects at night. Install light bulbs with higher wattage and movement-sensitive lights, particularly in stairways and narrow hallways. Look for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated light switches, and place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways. Store flashlights in an easy-to-find place in case of a power outage.
- Declutter your home and remove hazards: The easiest way to prevent falls is to keep your home neat and tidy. Remove all clutter, such as stacks of newspapers, magazines and pot plants from hallways, staircases and high-traffic areas. Keep your walkways and hallways clear. Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
- Adapt furniture: Make sure that the edges of tables, chairs and benches are smooth without sharp corners. Ensure your bed is sturdy and easy to climb into.
- Secure floor coverings: Remove loose rugs from your home or secure them to the floor with double-faced tape.
- Bathroom safety: Bathroom tiles can be slippery, especially when wet. To safeguard against falls, we recommend using non-slip mats in your bathtub or shower. Install grab bars for the shower, bathtub and toilet. Buy a sturdy plastic seat for the shower or bath, and a hand-held shower nozzle for showering while sitting down.
- Fire safety: To decrease the chance of falling in a fire emergency, install smoke alarms and test that they are in working order. Keep a fire blanket and extinguisher in an easy to reach location.
- Dress carefully: Avoid clothing that is too long, baggy or touches the floor, as this may increase the risk of tripping. Instead, opt for better-fitting and properly hemmed clothing that does not drag on the ground. Wear shoes or non-slip socks that have grips on the soles of the feet.
- Be cautious with stairs: Even if your stairs are fitted with precautions like handrails, stairs can create significant difficulty for an elderly person experiencing challenges with mobility. If possible, choose to live on the ground level. If that’s not possible, be extra careful when climbing stairs and try to limit the number of times you visit the second floor.
Fall Prevention In The Elderly Checklist: Improving Safety Outside The Home
To increase safety outside the home and reduce the risk of falling:
- Remove trip hazards in your garden: Keep your garden paths clear and well-swept and remove all objects that may create a trip hazard.
- Make your garden path safe: If your garden path is broken, uneven or cracked, repair it. Eliminate mosses, fungi and algae that may make your garden path slippery when wet.
- Make your stairs safe: Make sure your outside steps are well-lit and install grab rails next to stairs that do not have handrails.
Final Thoughts: Fall Prevention At Home
Preventing falls in the home is key to protecting elderly loved ones. Having a plan to prevent falls in the home is important for the safety of many older Australians.
References and Additional Resources
- Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. (2011). Don’t Fall For It – A Guide To Preventing Falls For Older People.
- Health Direct. (2018). Fall Prevention.
- My Aged Care (2015). Preventing Falls In The Elderly.
- Vieira, Edgar R. (2016). Prevention of Falls In Older People Living In The Community