According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 60-75% of all falls in the older adult population occur within or near the home. Implementing fall prevention strategies at home can be a simple way to reduce the risk for falls – for yourself or your loved ones. In this article, we offer physical therapist-approved tips to help prevent falls at home.
Habits that help prevent falls
Declutter your space
Make a habit of placing things in the spots where they belong so that clutter does not build up in walkways, on tables, or floors. Take a review of items you no longer need or use and donate to your favorite charity to free up more space.
Sometimes when we’re in a hurry, we aren’t as aware of our surroundings and can bump into something, miss a step, or trip. It’s also important to take 15-20 seconds when changing positions, especially after sitting or laying down for a period of time, to ensure you don’t feel dizzy before moving.
Be aware of your pets
We love our furry friends! But sometimes they can become a fall hazard. It can help to place a bell on the collar of your pet so you can hear if they come behind you. You also want to make sure you are comfortable taking them for walks – ensuring they will listen to you and won’t pull you too hard if they dart away after a squirrel. Don’t ever attach the leash to your walker or assistive device and opt for a standard leash instead of a retractable leash.
Walk with your hands out of your pockets
If you lose your balance, your hands can help you stabilize yourself on a wall or railing. If your hands are in your pockets, it is much more difficult to take them out in time to help.
Keep your phone near you in case you need to reach someone
Life happens, and sometimes we need to call for help. If you find yourself feeling abnormally weak, dizzy, or fatigued it is sometimes best to phone a friend or family member instead of pushing through the day on your own. Keep your phone in your pocket or on your walker so it is always within reach when you need it or you can opt for an alert button that you can wear around your neck and press for help. Additionally, using devices like a smartwatch that has the ability to notify family members or 911 in the event of falls can prove to be extremely useful.
Be vigilant about your health
If you notice something is off about the way you are walking, or you feel pain in your hips or knees, contact your healthcare provider. It’s important to be proactive in identifying any potential underlying issues with your health so that they can be addressed before they cause a fall. If you notice decreases in your balance, walking abilities, or muscle strength a physical therapist can help.
Decrease the risk for falls with easy room changes
Create wide paths for walking
Create walkways that are wide enough for you to navigate easily and with a walker if necessary – which is about 25-29 inches wide.
Tape down rugs
You don’t necessarily have to ditch your favorite home decor items, but when it comes to rugs you want to make sure they are taped down and relatively flush to the ground to prevent a tripping hazard.
Check to ensure your furniture is stable
You don’t want to lean on items that are not stable enough to support your weight. Be aware of furniture in your house that is not meant for stability, like kitchen chairs, and make a mental note not to hang onto them for balance.
Use furniture that is comfortable for you
You want to be able to easily get in and out of the chairs, couches, and beds in your home. Choosing chairs that are the right height for your body and physical capabilities is important. If a chair is too low and doesn’t have armrests, it might be too difficult for you to safely stand up on your own.
Add grab bars and railings if recommended
Sometimes as we get older, we need extra surfaces to grab onto to keep us steady. If your physical therapist recommends adding a railing or a grab bar, it is important to listen to their advice. There are ways to install bars and railings now so that they are both functional and meet your desired style.
Fall prevention at night
Use automatic night lights
Night lights that come on automatically ensure you never forget to switch them on and always have a light to guide your path in the dark.
Clear a path to the bathroom before bed
Make sure you can easily get to and from the bathroom so you don’t have to navigate obstacles during the night.
Keep important items within reach
Always leave your walker or cane close to your bed so that you can easily access it when you wake up. Keep your phone, glasses, and any other items you might need within reach on your nightstand.
Having difficult conversations about fall prevention at home
If you are a caregiver or family member that notices a loved one might benefit from fall prevention interventions at home, it can be a difficult conversation to have. First and foremost, remember to be empathetic and that this is their home. It’s important to come to solutions together and express your concerns honestly. Try providing them with resources to help educate them on the risk associated with falls and the steps that can be taken for fall prevention.
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1. Get the Facts on Falls Prevention. National Council on Aging. July 2022. Accessed September 6, 2022.
2. 18 Steps to Fall Proofing Your Home. National Council on Aging. September 2017. Accessed September 6, 2022.