Preventing Falls One Step at a Time

Although it's impossible to prevent all falls, you can help keep yourself safe as you grow older by improving your balance and employing "fall-proofing" behaviors in and around your home.

"Falls are more dangerous for older adults than younger adults because serious emotional and physical injury can result from a single fall," says Neil B. Alexander, M.D., professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Michigan.

Up to 30 percent of older adults who fall injure themselves seriously enough to impair their independence and increase their risk for premature death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Change your home

To help prevent falls in your home:

  • Remove unstable furniture, such as wobbly chairs.

  • Eliminate slippery rugs. Only use firmly attached or nonskid flooring.

  • Arrange furniture and other objects so they don't interfere with walking.

  • Firmly attach grab bars by tubs, showers and toilets.

  • Make sure handrails on staircases, porches and front walkways are tightly fastened.

  • Instead of wearing heels, slick soles or slippers when walking, wear shoes with traction or grip. But, be aware that traction on shoes can cause tripping, especially when moving from linoleum to carpet.

  • Install adequate lighting in stairwells, hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms and make sure light switches are easily accessible. Use night lights.

  • Remove electrical cords and telephone wires from walkways.

  • Have couches and chairs at a proper height for effortless standing up and sitting down.

Change your behavior

Getting regular exercise will improve your overall physical condition, making it less likely that you will fall. Your fitness routine should include activities that strengthen your muscles and make your balance better.

Avoiding certain behaviors, which can lead to falls, also is important:

  • Avoid taking chances, such as walking on a freshly washed floor or a patch of ice.

  • Instead of standing on a chair or table to reach something, ask for help or use a reaching tool to do the work.

  • Try not to carry something while climbing stairs. If you must do so, try to have one hand on the object and the other on a sturdy handrail.

  • Avoid talking while walking in unfamiliar territory. Curbs and sidewalk cracks can be hazardous when you're not paying full attention.

  • Don't get up too quickly after eating, lying down or resting. Rapid changes may cause dizziness. Report any dizziness to your doctor.

  • Simplify activities. Multi-tasking can lead to carelessness or less awareness.


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