Make your home safe from falls
Accidental falls are a major cause of broken bones in the elderly. Make your home "fall safe" by following these guidelines:
- Keep your home free of clutter to avoid tripping over stray objects. For example, keep electrical cords and telephone wires out of walkways.
- Arrange furniture, such as a low coffee table or stool, so it doesn't create obstacles.
- Buy chairs and couches that are easy to get into and out of.
Floor and rugs
- Check all floor surfaces to make sure they are in good repair and free of clutter.
- Cover slippery surfaces with carpet or rugs that are in good repair and anchor these firmly to the floor, backing area rugs with non-skid rubber.
- Cover linoleum floors with non-skid floor wax.
- Items used every day should be placed within easy reach to avoid unnecessary bending or stooping. For example, pans and utensils can be hung from a pegboard on the wall and revolving shelves set inside cabinets.
- Store frequently-used items in accessible cupboards to avoid the need to climb ladders or stools.
- Use a long-handled grasping device to pick up objects without reaching.
- Use a pushcart to help transfer hot or heavy objects from the stove to the table.
- Install grab bars on walls along the tub and shower and beside the toilet.
- Use non-skid mats, adhesive strips or carpet on all surfaces that may get wet.
- Install a padded shower seat and a portable, hand-held shower head to allow you to sit while bathing.
- Install a phone in as many rooms as possible to be accessible in the event of an accident.
- Make sure the night time temperature in your home is no lower than 65° Fahrenheit. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures may cause a drop in body temperature, leading to drowsiness and falling.
- Get up slowly from sitting, lying or squatting since low blood pressure may cause dizziness at these times.
- Place light switches within reach of bed(s) and a night light between the bedroom and bathroom.
- Choose proper footwear. Look for shoes that support the arch and have a firm, non-skid sole. Winter boots should fit well and have a thick sole with good treads.
- Avoid wearing only socks on stairs or waxed floors, loose-fitting slippers, shoes with wool or slippery soles, or high heels. Be aware that sneakers may give too much traction and cause you to trip.
- Sit down while putting on socks and shoes or trousers. Reach by bending forward from the hip.
- Keep the length of nightgowns and dresses short enough to avoid tripping when standing or climbing stairs.
- Falls occur most frequently on stairs, so be sure to install sturdy handrails on both sides of stairways to help break a fall.
- Mark the first and last step with bright tape.
- Install light switches at the top and bottom of stairways.
- Provide ample lighting throughout the house, especially on bedside tables, in halls and along stairs.
- Make sure light switches are easy to reach.
Outside the house
- Cover porch steps with gritty, weatherproof paint.
Stay alert in public places
- Use caution when walking through the lobby of a hotel or bank, a hospital or grocery store. Floors are often slippery or may have visually confusing patterns.
- Stay especially alert in places that are unfamiliar or poorly lighted. If you have any sense of dizziness, you may find it helpful to use a cane or walking stick.
- Slow down. Accidents are more likely to happen when you do things in haste.
If you fall, here are some things to remember:
- Drop whatever you are carrying. Free your hands so you can break your fall.
- It's better to risk fracturing a wrist than to break a shoulder or hip. If you think something is broken, don't move and don't let others move you until you get medical assistance.
- Arrange a signal, use a professional alert system and try to make telephones accessible to most rooms in the house so if you fall, you can get help quickly. Lying on the floor for long periods after a fall can be harmful.
- If you think you are only bruised and not seriously injured, try to get up on a chair rather than standing up directly from the floor. Avoid putting weight on the injured area.
- For minor bruises, apply ice.
- Analyze what happened and identify what you can do to avoid a similar fall next time.