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Improving Home Safety for the Elderly: Part 1 – Fall Prevention

In part 1 of this series, I want to offer some tips and suggestions to help prevent elderly falls. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States. Slip and falls are also the leading cause of injury-related deaths among the elderly population. These statistics clearly show that fall prevention measures need to be taken in the homes of the elderly. Let me take this time to offer four important fall prevention steps that you can take in this new year.

 

1) Exercise Regularly

Exercise is one of the most helpful ways to help prevent elderly falls. The CDC recommends exercises like Tai Chi that improve balance while strengthening muscles. It is important to ask your doctor or health care professional what exercises are best for you.

2) Review Medications

The use of some medications can cause dizziness, which may lead to slip and falls. Make sure you carry a list of all current medications to doctor appointments and try to use the same pharmacy each time you fill a prescription.  In doing so, it will give your health care professionals a better chance of catching unwanted side effects from drug-drug interactions. If you have further interest in this topic, see our article on polypharmacy here.

3) Undergo Eye Examinations

The CDC recommends that seniors get their eyes examined at least once a year. A lack of proper depth perception can be detrimental for an elderly person trying to walk around the house or reach for an object. This often-overlooked step can be very helpful when it comes to mobility and avoiding elderly falls.

4) Reduce Home Hazards

The home is not always the safest place for an elderly person. Oftentimes, the home possesses many hazards that can lead to slip and falls. Here is a short list of home hazards that should be addressed immediately to improve elderly fall prevention.

a) Stairways – Make sure handrails are on both sides of the stairway and inspect to make sure all handrails are securely fastened.

b) Floors and Rugs – Eliminate throw rugs if at all possible. Make sure area rugs are secured to the floor with tacks or that they have a non-skid pad underneath. If you have hardwood floors, make sure all the floor boards are even and use a non-skid floor wax.

c) Lighting – Place nightlights in hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms, and stairways. Install light switches at both the top and bottom of staircases.

d) Miscellaneous Objects – From newspapers to telephone cords and indoor plants, move all miscellaneous objects out of pathways to create a safe place to walk.

Making these adjustments in the home can sometimes be costly. However, many states and local communities have low or no-interest loans, tax credits, or other programs for home modifications for those who are old or disabled. If you have a further interest, visit the websites below to find out what help is available in your area.

www.eldercare.gov

www.rebuildingtogether.org

This completes Part 1 of our 3-part series on improving home safety for the elderly this new year. If you would like further information on the subject of fall prevention, a great place to start is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Check back soon for Part 2 of our series where we explore Home Emergency Preparedness for the elderly.


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