Independent living: 14 ways you can help seniors prevent falls

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Falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 adults aged 65 and older falls each year. That’s a staggering statistic that represents about 36 million falls annually. Even more concerning is that falls can have serious consequences: Senior falls lead to more than 3 million emergency room visits and over 800,000 fractures each year. Several factors that can contribute to the increased risks of falls for seniors include:

  • Weakened muscles and bones
  • Vision changes
  • Balance problems
  • Medication side effects
  • Foot problems like arthritis, bunions or poor shoe choices
  • Environmental hazards like loose rugs, cluttered hallways and slippery surfaces

The good news is, some falls can be preventable. By taking proactive steps to address risk factors and create a safer environment, seniors can reduce their chances of falling and maintain their ability to live independently. 

Ways you can help prevent senior falls

There are a variety of ways to help address these risk factors and promote safe, independent living for seniors, including:

  • Embrace exercise — Physical activity can be a cornerstone of fall prevention. Exercises that focus on strength, balance and flexibility can significantly improve your ability to stay steady on your feet. Activities like walking, tai chi, yoga and strength training with light weights can be great options. Make sure you talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. You may even consider working with a physical therapist to create a personalized plan that meets your specific needs and abilities.
  • Go to occupational therapy — Occupational therapists specialize in adapting tasks and environments to make them as safe as possible. They may suggest a variety of modifications, such as using grab bars in the bathroom or getting dressed while sitting. 
  • Do a home evaluation — Take a walk around your home with a critical eye. Look for potential hazards like loose rugs, cluttered walkways, uneven flooring or poor lighting. You may consider hiring a professional to do a home safety assessment and recommend modifications. Occupational or physical therapists are also able to complete home evaluations and provide recommendations.
  • Use mobility aids — Don’t be afraid to use assistive devices like canes, walkers or grab bars if they can help you maintain your independence safely. Physical therapists can help determine the most appropriate device to increase safety.
  • Get regular checkups — Schedule regular eye exams to make sure your vision is corrected with proper glasses or contacts. You can also talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about balance or dizziness. They can review your medications to see if any side effects might be increasing your risk of falling. 
  • Wear good shoes — Choose well-fitting shoes with good arch support and nonslip soles. Replace worn-out shoes promptly to ensure proper support and traction. 
  • Listen to your body — Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you’re feeling tired, weak or dizzy, take a break. Don’t rush while walking or doing activities. Make sure you get enough sleep each night to stay alert and energized. 
  • Socialize and stay active — Social isolation and depression can contribute to a decline in physical and mental health, which can increase the risk of falls. Stay connected with your friends and family. Go out and participate in social activities and find other ways to stay mentally stimulated. You could join a walking group or senior center for social interaction and light exercise.

Your home is your haven and making it a safe haven is key. Some ways to turn your home into a fall-free fortress can include:

  • Light it up — Good lighting is essential. You can install brighter bulbs throughout the house, especially in hallways, in bathrooms and near stairs. You may even consider night lights for frequently used areas at night.
  • Clear the way — Take time to declutter walkways and living spaces. Remove loose rugs, electrical cords and anything else that could cause a tripping hazard. Rearrange your furniture to create clear pathways. 
  • Check stairs for safety — Make sure all of your staircases have sturdy handrails on both sides. You can also install nonslip strips on each step to help improve traction. 
  • Install bathroom aids — Bathrooms can be a high-risk area for falls due to their slippery surfaces. To help with this risk, you can install grab bars near the toilet, shower and bathtub. Adding nonslip bath mats and shower mats can also help. Consider getting a shower chair for increased stability while bathing. 
  • Keep items within reach in the kitchen — Make sure to keep frequently used items within easy reach. Keep a sturdy step stool on hand for reaching higher cabinets; however, only use when someone is close for supervision. Inspect the floor for loose tiles or linoleum, and check lights over countertops and stovetops. 
  • Take care when getting in and out of bed — A light by your bedside can help you avoid stumbling in the dark. You may consider installing grab bars near the bed for assistance when getting up and down. You can also keep a sturdy chair or bedside table nearby to help with getting out of bed. Make sure the pathway to your door and bathroom are clear prior to falling asleep.

By taking proactive steps, creating a safe environment and maintaining healthy habits, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling. Reducing this risk can help you continue to enjoy the freedom and independence that can come with senior living. However, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Healthcare professionals, family or friends can help you create a path toward a safe and fulfilling future. 

Take control of your golden years with Ability KC

The journey to prevent falls and maintain independence can feel overwhelming at times. With our team at Ability KC, you never have to do it alone. We have a 75-plus-year history of empowering individuals. Our senior services are specifically designed to help older adults with disabilities and who are recovering from a serious injury or illness adapt to the natural changes of aging and promote safe, independent living at home. We offer a variety of outpatient medical rehabilitation programs and techniques tailored to meet individual needs. With dedication, a proactive approach and the right support system, you can continue to enjoy independent living into your golden years.

Ability KC is a designated Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility (CORF) with a Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accreditation. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial evaluation.