What can be done to help prevent elderly people from falling?

Elderly people can prevent falls by being mindful of their everyday routines and things around the home that might contribute to falls, since more than half of all falls happen in the home. Some of the likely culprits include:
  • carrying heavy or bulky items up or down the stairs
  • loose rugs
  • not having stair railings
  • not having grab bars in the bathrooms
  • clutter on the floor or on the steps
  • poor lighting or improper placement of lamps
  • furniture that blocks pathways
  • wet or slick floors
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Anthony Cirillo
Geriatric Medicine
An elderly person's fear of falling can actually exacerbate underlying physical conditions, creating a vicious circle, which could lead to a greater risk of falling, according to a report.

Difficulty walking as a result of old age often has many causes. These can include visual defects, degeneration of motor skills, taking medication or drinking alcohol, and anxiety over falls. Elderly individuals who are afraid of falling typically restrict their own movements, inadvertently worsening the physical conditions they may have, and contributing to a greater risk of falls.

I tell my clients to take balance classes to lessen their anxiety and improve their equilibrium. Keeping your balance is one step in preventing falls.
Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to help prevent elderly people from falling. Many communities offer strength and flexibility exercise programs, which the elderly can participate in. Annual hearing and visual exams, and keeping eye glasses up to date and hearing aids handy can also help prevent falls. It would also be helpful to review medications with a healthcare provider, and determine which medications might cause dizziness, or increase a bleeding risk should a fall occur.

It's essential to assess the home for safety, and identify any fall risks that may be present. There are several things that can be done to make a home safer:
  • Remove unnecessary throw rugs, or use double sided tape so that they don't slip.
  • Make sure that hand railings are secure on all steps and stairs.
  • Put hand railings on both sides of the stairs.
  • Install grab bars near the toilet and on walls near the bath or shower.
  • Apply non-slip strips in the bath or shower.
  • Use assisted devices, such as a raised toilet seat and a non-slip shower chair.
  • Have adequate lighting in hallways, bathrooms, and stairs, with easily accessible light switches and night lights.
  • Be sure all cords are tucked away, such as lamp cords, extension cords and phone cords.
  • Wear non-slip slippers, or shoes with a sturdy sole.
  • Keep pet toys and dishes and bowls out of walking areas.
  • Have pets wear a collar with a bell to always know where the pet is.
  • Consider obedience training for a pet to control jumping or pulling behaviors that may cause a fall.
  • Use a medical alert device that can be worn around the neck or wrist to summon help in the event of a fall.
Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine

For a middle-aged person, a fall is usually no big deal. A senior citizen, however, can suffer lasting damage. In this video, Dr. Robin Miller talks about the steps we can take to keep the elderly people in our life safe.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.