Falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors in Canada. In fact, more than half of all injuries among seniors are a result of falls and most of those occur in the home or surrounding area. The bad news is that a fall can result in a serious injury such as a hip fracture, as well as a loss of independence. The good news is that falls can be prevented and there are steps seniors can take to make sure they stay safe and self-sufficient at home.
Fall prevention starts with knowledge. As the body ages, normal changes occur, such as the reduction of vision, hearing and sense of touch, which can increase the risk of falls. Other risk factors include reduced balance, physical fitness, side-effects from medications and unsafe conditions around the home.
There are many way to reduce the risk, for example, keeping physically fit can prevent a decline in mobility, strength, balance, and flexibility and keep muscles toned.
People who cannot hear or see properly are at a greater risk of falling. Check hearing and vision regularly and wear appropriate glasses and hearing aids. Be aware of the side-effects of medications. Medications that cause dizziness or weakness can affect balance and perception.
One of the greatest risk factors is unsafe conditions around the home, especially in the kitchen, bathroom and on stairways.
Here are a few tips to help "fall proof" a home:
- Remove throw rugs or scatter mats; their edges are treacherous hazards. Another option: secure them to the floor or ensure they have non-skid backing to keep them from slipping
- Have handrails installed on the stairs
- Ensure stairways are well lit and free of clutter
- Keep walkways free of telephone and electrical cords and other clutter
- Install grab bar(s) and non-slip surfaces to make the bathtub or shower less slippery
- Use a bath seat, if standing up in a shower is difficult
- For those who have trouble getting on and off the toilet, use a raised toilet seat or grab bar
- Improve lighting in the bathroom or hallway by installing a nightlight
- Wipe up any spills immediately to prevent slipping
- Keep items in the kitchen in easy-to-reach locations
- Only use a short, stable step stool with a handrail
- Keep an easy-to-read list of emergency numbers near the telephone
- Keep outside walkways free of leaves, ice, snow and debris
- Wear supportive shoes when gardening or walking around the home
- For those that require one, use a walking aid (e.g. cane or walker)
- Remove your reading glasses when mobile
- Take care not to trip by always checking the floor
- Get help for heavier work around the house or garden
A senior who takes action to prevent a fall at home can live safely and independently for many years to come.
FEBRUARY 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
FEBRUARY 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER LOWER MAINLAND
Giovanna Boniface, BSc (Bio), BSc, (OT), is an occupational therapist with over 12 years experience working in community-based rehabilitation.
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