Tips for Preventing Falls at Home

There are steps you can take to proactively prevent a fall. Here are some of best practices

Two seniors dancing

By Michelle Tristani

Since COVID-19, older adults have been spending more time than ever at home, often alone. One of the many effects of this isolation is that seniors are often not getting enough exercise, which can cause them to become more prone to falls. This risk is compounded by the coming winter months, creating further anxiety about leaving home or facing icy conditions during walks outside.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four people over the age of 65 falls every year, and, every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall.

Besides obvious injuries, such as broken bones, concussion, there is often long-lasting emotional trauma and anxiety following a fall. Fear of falling again usually triggers cautious walking and smaller steps, which inherently increases the risk of another incident.

No matter where you or your loved one lives, there are steps you can take to proactively prevent a fall. Here are some of Benchmark’s best practices:

  • Look for fall or trip hazards – Area rugs, cords, stairs and poorly placed furniture can all present an unsafe environment. Evaluate and eliminate things that pose a risk.
  • Consider adaptive solutions – Most falls happen in the bathroom, often when using the toilet. At home, install grab bars around the tub and near the toilet.
  • Evaluate gait and balance – Family members should look at how a loved one moves and discuss any symptoms they may be having. Are they frequently off-balance, or is the way they walk abnormal? Are they experiencing dizziness or lightheadedness? If so, consider having them evaluated by a medical professional.
  • Improve lighting in your home – Don’t let a shoe or a folded runner in the hallway lead to a fall. It’s critical to see your potential obstacles.
  • Enroll in Tai Chi online or in-person – Although all forms of movement are good, Tai Chi is ideal. It improves lower body and leg strength, including the ankles and knees, which are prone to aging.
  • Wear comfortable, sensible shoes – Poorly fitted footwear, including those that are loose, worn or backless — or going without shoes at all — is a common cause of falls. Consult with a podiatrist or a store like The Walking Company to ensure shoes fit properly, are comfortable, sturdy, supportive and have nonskid soles.
  • Sign-up for a medical alert system – If a fall does happen, getting immediate help is critical. Wearable pendants can help older adults access help right away from wherever they are.

Michelle Tristani is Benchmark Senior Living’s Corporate Director of Memory Care.