We expect young children to fall as they begin to walk. We know one is bound to fall when learning new skills like how to ice skate. Yet as we age, we become afraid of falling. This fear is realistic: Falls are a leading cause of injury or death for people over 65. People in this age group who live at home fall at a rate of one person in four each year. Of these, one quarter will have a serious injury. These numbers show that you have good reason to be worried about a parent falling!
Risk Factors for Falling
Fortunately, there are steps to take to limit the risk of falls. The first is to determine the likelihood of your mom or dad falling at home. Talk with your parent’s doctor if your parent has:
- A change in vision.
- Complaints about numbness in feet or hands that could mean issues with circulation or nerves.
- A medication with a side effect of lightheadedness or dizziness.
- Loss of bladder and/or bowel control.
- Early dementia or depression.
The physician can conduct an assessment to determine your mom or dad’s fall risk. You can take steps to limit risks based on the doctor’s suggestions.
Creating a Safe Environment
Your mom or dad may not have any apparent risk factors. The next fall prevention step applies to those with identified risks, as well as those with the common risk of advancing age. The goal of making changes in a senior’s home is to promote safety. If your parent goes outdoors, it is wise to consider outside safety too.
Think about involving your parents as you check their home as change can be upsetting for those who feel they are continually losing control. As you look for fall hazards, watch how your parent moves around! Does she hold onto the wall as she heads toward the bathroom? Does he tend to totter or lose balance when he stands up? Changes like these can indicate weakness or unsure balance, increasing the chance of falling.
Steps that promote a safe home environment include:
- Installing secure safety grips by the toilet and in the tub.
- Bright lighting throughout the home, including by entrances—limit shadow areas.
- Replace scatter rugs with rubber-backed rugs—no curled edges.
- Safe entry and interior stairs with sturdy handrails, preferably on both sides.
- Reducing clutter and securing cords.
- Keeping frequently used items within easy reach.
- Checking that appliances and plumbing fixtures do not leak.
- Having a discussion about safety when there is a pet in the home.
Personal Steps that Promote Safety
There are personal factors that can improve safety. Ideas to talk about with your parent include:
- Safe mobility—standing up slowly, using handrails, as well as a cane or walker. Turning slowly—step-by-step—helps to prevent falls!
- Regular physical activity to retain strength and balance.
- Wearing incontinence briefs if rushing to the bathroom is a concern.
- Well-fitting clothes and shoes to reduce tripping or catching on furniture.
- Clean, well-fitting glasses with an up-to-date prescription.
These steps, and knowing to whom you can turn for advice and the voice of experience, helps to assure your parents’ safety and your peace of mind.
Cranberry Home Care professionals can offer you other tips to promote home safety. Let our years of experience guide you with home care planning for your parent. We offer free consultations and the security of knowing when to take next steps.
- Lee, A., Lee, K-W., & Khang, P. (2013). Preventing falls in the geriatric population. The Permanente Journal, 17(4), pp. 37-39. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3854807/
- Mayo Clinic. (2016). Fall prevention: Simple steps to prevent falls. Retrieved from:
- National Council on Aging. (2016). 18 steps to fall proofing your home. Retrieved from: https://www.ncoa.org/blog/falls-prevention-home-18-step-safety-checklist/