Falls: Are you at risk?
Falls are the leading cause of fractures, injury and death among persons over the age of 65. Taking time to prevent falls greatly improves the chances of staying at home.
Falls can happen any time and any place, but two-thirds of falls by senior citizens occur in the home during everyday activities like walking across a cluttered room, slipping on a throw rug or a wet floor, standing on a stool or using the stairs. Many of these accidents could be prevented by an item as simple as tape, a bathtub grab bar, or by the repair or installation of a stairway
Falls are often predictable and can be prevented. When a senior is injured in a fall, hospitalization, decreased independence, decreased mobility and relocation to a facility often occur. For a senior a can often be a life changing negative event.
Senior often develop a considerable fear of falling, this can lead to decreased self-confidence which in turn lead to self-restriction in activities of daily living which may lead to social isolation and depression.
The number of falls and severity of injury increases with age. According to According to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Seniors Fall Second Report, the cost of falls to seniors, their families, and other taxpayers in Canada is huge. Aside from the negative physical and mental health consequences of falling, there are significant associated financial costs, estimated at $2 billion annually, a value 3.7 times greater than that for younger adults. On average, seniors who are hospitalized for a fall remain in hospital nine days longer than those hospitalized for any cause.
Now for the good news, steps can be taken to prevent falls by identifying the major risk factors and taking some common-sense precautions.
Below are a few common risk factors and possible fixes:
- Provide enough light. Is there a light switch at the top and bottom of your stairs?
- Keep stairs free from clutter, and use sturdy handrails.
- There should be a handrail on at least one side of all stairways. The height should allow you to use it comfortably when your arm is slightly bent at the elbow.
- With outdoor stairs, which can be covered in ice or water, keep sand or salt handy and sprinkle it on your stairs and walkway when you go out. Wear comfortable shoes with rubber soles, which offer a better grip.
- Are all your steps in good repair? Make sure there are no uneven surfaces, cracks, bunched-up stair covering or protruding nails.
- Are you able to see the edges of the steps clearly? Paint a contrasting color on the edge of wooden or concrete steps (or on the top and bottom steps), or apply special strips you can buy to enhance the visibility of each step.
- Take your time when going up or down the stairs? Best way is slowly - hand on the handrail. Rushing is a major cause of falls.
- Make sure your vision isn't blocked as you go up or down your stairs? If you're carrying something, make sure it doesn't hide the stairs and that one hand is free to use the handrail.
- Do you remove your reading glasses when using stairs? Be sure you remove your reading glasses for walking or climbing up or down stairs. If you use bifocals, adjust your glasses so you can see the stairs clearly.
- Install handrails or grab bars. Use non-skid rugs on the bathroom floor and tub. Use a nightlight.
- Avoid climbing, but when you do, use a stable stool with handrails.
- Arrange storage at counter level.
- Make sure lighting is bright, so that if there’s a spill, you’ll see it.
- Keep the area well lit. Keep electrical telephone cords and other items out of pathways. Remove throw rugs.
Need help identifying your fall risks?
Live Your Life Homecare provides a free home assessment. During our visit to your home we get to know you and identify risks that are specific to you and your home. Every person is different and every home poses different challenges. We are here to help.