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May 29, 2013

Aging in Place: 4 Tips to Decrease Your Chances of Falls in the Home

For older adults who choose to live independently, making small changes to help prevent in-home falls should be one of the first conversations they have with care coordinators and loved ones. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. In 2010, some 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments with more than 662,000 of these patients being hospitalized.

While it’s impossible to prevent all falls, there are a few tips you can implement to help decrease your likeliness of falling:

Make an Appointment with Your Doctor

The Mayo Clinic advises your first step in a fall-prevention plan should be to make a special appointment with your doctor. Prepare for your visit by writing down all of the prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements you are taking. Your doctor can review your medications for possible side effects and undesirable drug interactions that may increase your risk of falling.

Be prepared to discuss previous falls or instances when you almost fell but managed to grab hold of a sturdy object just in time. Also bring up any health conditions, such as eye or ear disorders, and how comfortable you feel when you walk. Inform your doctor if you ever feel dizziness, joint pain, numbness, or shortness of breath when walking.

Adapt Your Surroundings

Preventing in-home falls doesn’t require abandoning the home you love. There are both small and big changes you can make to your home to decrease your chances of falling.

On the small spectrum, take a quick look around your entire home (living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways, stairways, etc.) for possible falling hazards. These may include:

  • Coffee tables in high-traffic areas
  • Loose rugs in hallways
  • Exposed electric cords on the floor
  • Clothing, dishes, and other necessities in hard-to-reach places

Work with your loved ones to remove and reorganize your home to remedy these tripping hazards. The Mayo Clinic also advises you keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping over objects that are difficult to see.

On the larger spectrum, you can hire contractors to add universal design features to your home. Universal design features include no-step entries, wide interior doors, downstairs bedrooms or bathrooms, smooth shower entries, and grab bars.

Invest in Practical Footwear

Familydoctor.org advises older adults avoid wearing loose-fitting slippers and high heels indoors. Walking indoors with only socks or stockings can also be undesirable for older adults, especially if their homes have hardwood floors.

The Mayo Clinic offers the following tips for older adults when purchasing indoor shoes:

  • Have your feet measured each time you buy shoes
  • Buy properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles
  • Avoid shoes with extra-thick soles
  • Choose lace-up shoes or shoes with fabric fasteners in place of slip-on shoes

Improve Your Balance with Exercise

Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. Ask your physician for recommendations on exercise routines that can improve your balance. Tai chi is often recommended for mature adults as it is known to improve balance, flexibility, and muscle strength – all of which are important in preventing falls. A low-impact exercise with a stress-reducing meditative quality, tai chi classes are available through many senior centers, local park districts, health clubs, and martial arts centers.

If you choose to practice balance exercises in your home instead of externally with a group, always support yourself by holding onto something sturdy with both hands to prevent an inadvertent fall. As your balance and muscle strength improve, gradually decrease support to one hand, then one finger until you can perform the exercise without support. Even then, it is a wise precaution to exercise within reach of sturdy support.

With these tips, you can decrease your likeliness of falling in the home. Want to learn more exercise options for improving your balance? Download our free guide “Remaining Active: How to Begin a Regular Exercise Routine

remain independent in your home

photo credit: cobalt123


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