Now that winter is coming to an end, lingering patches of snow and ice are melting, making it safer for everyone as they go about their day, especially for older Americans. One of the biggest challenges for the elderly is fall prevention, so for many, the sight of cleared snow and ice is a great relief, even if they don’t want to give voice to their concerns.
In reality though, while snow and ice are bad, the greater risk is much closer than you’d think. While we’re outside, we’re likely to be more guarded and cautious than we are in our own home, making us more susceptible to preventable falls.
According to the CDC, every year, 3 million American go to the emergency room because of a fall injury and 800,000 of those are hospitalized for their injury, most often from hip fractures or head injuries.
Complacency, then, is a luxury most simply can’t afford. Fortunately, there are 5 things you can do right now to greatly reduce your risk of falling in your home and helping to keep yourself safe for years to come.
Eliminate Clutter In Your Home That Can Cause a Fall Injury
Keeping paths clear for you to move through your home is essential, especially as we get older. Things that might not have inhibited us before—a box, houseplants, coffee tables, etc—may not seem like a big problem and they honestly won’t, right up until the moment you stumble over the shoe rack you forgot was there. It is only after we have sustained a serious fall injury that the risks become obvious.
Things like houseplants can make a home feel more alive, but if they’re on the floor, ask whether the risk is worth it. Even houseplants hung from a wall or ceiling can present a fall danger if you walk into them by accident, knocking you off balance.
Storage containers and other home organization items should be stowed away in closets or other out of the way areas and kept out of trafficked areas.
If you have furniture that has exposed, ornamental legs that stick out from the profile of the piece, it is easy to misjudge the space it takes up—as a lifetime of stubbed toes can attest to. Consider moving it to an
If you find that you’re having trouble decluttering or organizing your home on your own, enlist help, or pay to have someone come in and take care of it. You might hesitate to spend the money, but whatever they charge will pale next to a hospital bill after suffering a fall.
Remove Trip Hazards
Sometimes the most dangerous thing isn’t the largest object it the room, it’s the smallest thing in the worst possible position. Loose carpeting, throw rugs, and similar items on the floor can easily trip you if you get your foot tangled up in them.
And since these items may be in areas of your home with tables, chairs, and other furniture, the potential for injuries is especially high. Ensure that any rugs have the edges firmly held down with tape and that any torn carpet is repaired to help eliminate these risks in your home.
Probably the greatest trip hazard of them all is exposed cords, cables, or plugs. Whenever a cable or power cord is run through a trafficked area of the home, anyone can become susceptible to a fall injury, regardless of age.
If you have appliances, lighting, or other equipment that sits far away from a power outlet, consider moving it closer to the outlet to avoid needing to run the cable through trafficked spaces.
If they cannot be moved, consider whether you can have the cables run underneath the carpet or rug. If that isn’t possible, cable covers are available that will cover them in a way that reduces their potential hazard and even taping the entire cable down to the floor is better than nothing at all
If none of this can be done, consider whether having the lamp or appliance is genuinely worth keeping. No item, no matter its value in sentiment or investment, is worth a life-threatening injury.
Install Safety Equipment and Assistance
While the most common use for grab bars and handrails are in bathrooms and on stairs, they don’t need to be limited to just those areas. If you don’t use a walker or a cane around your home, consider installing handrails in hallways or other high traffic areas as well.
The bathroom is particularly susceptible to dangerous falls when trying to raise up off the toilet, getting in or out of the bathtub or shower, as well as when bathing. Consider having a raised toilet seat installed along with grab bars around the toilet and the wall next to the shower or tub. If you don’t have one already, a shower seat and an extendable showerhead are essential assistance equipment that you should consider installing.
Wear Shoes and Avoid Loose Clothing to Reduce Fall Risk
Clothes with loose fabric might be comfortable, but they can also be a potential cause of falls in the home. Fabric can get caught on table corners, doorknobs, and many other elements in the home that can escape detection until they have snagged your clothing. This can potentially unbalance you as you’re walking, leading to a fall. Likewise, fabric that drapes over your foot is a major risk factor for a fall. Wearing more fitted clothing and properly hemming pants and skirts can help eliminate these risks.
While many may not be comfortable wearing shoes in the home, it is an important safety measure, as socks without treaded soles will not give you sufficient traction on some flooring to prevent a fall. Have a pair of comfortable shoes that you can wear inside that have a non-skid sole to give you the traction you need to walk on any surface in your home.
Adequate Lighting is an Essential Fall Prevention Measure
Use nightlights or motion-sensing lighting throughout your home so that rooms, hallways, and stairs are properly lit before you move through them. If you have to move through a darkened room to reach the light switch, your risk for a fall greatly increases, so the best way to reduce your risk is to never have to do so in the first place.