Although anyone can have a dangerous fall, at any age, for a variety of reasons, if you’re aged 65 or over the risks are greater. In individuals over the age of 80, falls are the number one cause of death.
The truth is, many falls that happen within the home could be avoided by taking the appropriate preventative measures. Fall prevention programs can, therefore, save lives. The following is a short helpful guide on preventing injury and preventing falls at home.
To begin safeguarding a home, the following areas and items should be closely examined:
Front door and other entrances – Install railings on both sides of steps, repair broken stairs or walkways and ensure adequate lighting.
Living Room and bedrooms – If a piece of furniture acts as an obstacle, move it closer to the wall or remove it completely. Install thick carpeting to help break a fall, should it occur, eliminate glass tables or other breakable items. Avoid tables with sharp edges, rounded corners are preferable.
Bathroom – Install safety bars near the toilet, and in and around the bathtub or shower.
Outdoors – Keep walkways clear of debris and weeds.
Cords – Move cords away from high traffic areas, wrap any access, and attach extension cords securely to the wall.
Flooring – Purchase non-slip rugs to counteract a smooth floor, particularly in the bathroom and kitchen, where contact with water becomes a cause for concern.
Colors – Use colors to differentiate between various levels and fixtures. Highlight the edges of steps with a brighter color or choose a wall color that offsets the shade of fixtures.
Clutter – An overfilled house is a recipe for disaster because there are often pieces of furniture and items to walk around, possibly sparking a loss of balance. Create a free-flowing, obstacle-free living area by getting rid of furniture and bulky items you no longer need.
An ounce of prevention vs a pound of cure
In addition to changes at home, exercise is also an excellent preventive measure in fighting off unnecessary falls. As you get older your sense of balance fades. This is in part due to the slow reduction in strength we experience as we age but more so just because we often do less and use it less as we get older.
Physiotherapy, functional training and Pilates can all help increase balance. Physiotherapy especially is not just for injuries and rehabilitation after and incident. A good physiotherapist can help you avoid incident by designing a custom flexibility and strength program that takes your individual capabilities and needs into consideration.
So what can I do? (Asking for a friend)
As we grow older, we tend to become more set in our ways. Physical changes, especially the thought of exercise become daunting. A large part of this is a lack of routine of course. It’s hard to get back into doing regular exercise if you haven’t done any in hmm.. a while. The consequence though is increasingly more serious risk as you get older.
If you’re worried about a family member or friend then have the conversation with them, but proceed patiently and with an offering hand. As healthcare providers we’ve found the best approach is to be patient and just ask questions. Let the person make their own decisions. A senior in particular may not respond well to uninvited modifications to their home, leaving the door open to refusal and scrutiny as it were.
Explain the importance of fall prevention with a gentle tone and genuine concern, instead of trying to impose your opinion. This is the best way to elicit a positive response, and implement a fall prevention program.
Prevention really can save your life
If you’re concerned about the risk of injury through a fall then don’t wait for something bad to happen before you look for help. At Physio First we can recommend an exercise plan that is specific to you personally and addresses stability and balance issues. The difference can be having the strength and coordination to catch yourself at the top of a set of stairs say, and having a serious accident.
Please feel free to forward this article to someone you are concerned about and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to send me an email or call us at our practice in Horgen.
Feel better. Move better. Live better.