Reduce the Risk of Falling at Home
Making your home more safe is important to reduce the risk of falling, especially if you have dizziness, vertigo, unsteadiness with walking, or balance problems.
Most falls occur on a level surface, slipping or tripping inside your own home.
In this blog, I share some important considerations to reduce the risk of falling in your home.
Clear the Walkways
One key tip to preventing falls in the home is to keep the walkways clear.
A normal change with aging that older adults experience is a slowing of balance reactions.
When older adults trip or stumble, they are less likely to be able to catch themselves before they fall.
Electrical cords, clutter, grandchildren, and pets are all big things that can make an impact on the likelihood of falls.
Beware that Small Pets can cause a Tripping Hazard
In order to reduce the risk of falling, I recommend for you to crate or gate your pets, or add a bell to their collar, especially if you have small pets.
They are great for reducing depression and anxiety, as well as helping cardiovascular health. However, small pets can get in the way and they can cause slipping or tripping on a level surface inside your own home.
Modify the Bathroom to Prevent Slipping
It is also important to keep bathrooms safe. There are many options, from low cost changes to high cost renovations.
For example, handrails, grab bars, and non-skid surfaces can be really important!
Another option to reduce the risk of falling in the bathroom include a walk-in bathtub that is level with the floor, preventing you from having to step over the side of the tub to enter.
Contrasting tile between the bathroom and connecting rooms so that you are aware of when you are entering the bathroom may also help, because bathroom floors are more likely to be slippery.
Some less expensive options that you can likely find at a local pharmacy are a shower chair or a tub bench, so that you can sit down if you are not able to modify your tub. If you opt to sit down, you will also need to install a handheld shower head.
Believe it or not, many people fall while standing up in the shower, especially if they get dizzy or lose their balance while leaning forward or leaning backwards to wash their hair with their eyes closed.
Ensure Proper Lighting
In all rooms, lighting is very important. There are normal changes to vision with aging which require more light than we used to need to see the same things.
Some options to improve lighting as well as reduce the risk of falling are to use night lights, motion activated lights, or lights on your bed stand that you can tap to activate.
I even met one lady that had a headlamp at night because she had to use a walker!
Decide When to Take Action
Now the question is, do you really need to do any of these changes to your home? Is this something you need to do right now?
I meet a lot of people that say “I only fell once and I wasn’t really hurt that badly so I don’t really need to do anything.”
Those are people that are in denial of the limitations of their balance and often are unaware of this information.
If you have lost your balance, fallen, feel afraid of falling, or feel unsteady with walking, then making your home more safe is important for you.
If you hear any of your friends talking about unsteadiness with walking or fear of falling, I encourage you to share with them some things that you have learned about how to reduce the risk of falling.
Sometimes, falling can be one of the symptoms of unrecognized BPPV. If you are experiencing chronic falls, it my be wise to consult a Vestibular Physical Therapist to seek professional treatment.
For more about what works in fall prevention, click here.
To watch a comprehensive UCSD Stein public lecture that I offered in 2016 to help you reduce the risk of falling, click here.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.