TMH Living Well: 5 Tips to prevent falls in the home
We usually don’t think of our homes as hazardous areas, but people fall in their homes more than anywhere else. According to the National Institute of Health, six out of 10 falls happen in the home. Thankfully there are simple ways to reduce your risk of falling while at home.
“As we age, bodily systems that drive balance start to wear down over time. Developing strategies to avoid falls in the home is important to compensate for these changes,” said Ericka Lucas, PT, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist with The Memorial Hospital.
Getting rid of hazards and adding safety items is a great way to start. Here is what physical therapists at TMH recommend.
1. Keep pathways and steps clear of clutter1. Keep pathways and steps clear of clutter
1. Keep pathways and steps clear of clutter
Keep your floors clear of clutter and make sure you have enough room between pieces of furniture to allow for easy movement. If you have the habit of stacking items on the stairs, stop doing that, too. Common clutter items include shoes, bags, electrical cords, pet bowls and pets themselves.
“When there is little space between objects you have to bring your feet really close together. This decreases the base of your support, challenging your balance,” said Ryan Shawcroft, PT, DPT, a physical therapist with TMH.
Lucas adds that using furniture or walls to help you balance as you walk from room to room is a big risk for falls. If you are guilty of “furniture walking” or “wall walking,” it is time to get out your cane and use it at home.
2. Get rid of throw rugs and loose carpet2. Get rid of throw rugs and loose carpet
2. Get rid of throw rugs and loose carpet
While throw rugs can add color to your space, they can also get caught up under your feet. If they don’t have a sturdy, non-slip backing they can also slide and cause you to fall. If you want rugs, buy large, low pile rugs and use a no-slip pad underneath.
3. Light up your space3. Light up your space
3. Light up your space
Vision is a key to balance and avoiding stumbles. If you can see the danger before you get to it, you can prepare for it. Put lamps in reach, use nightlights and add extra lighting to stairways.
“Having good lighting in main living areas and high traffic areas will help you manage challenges on your path,” Lucas said.
4. Be extra careful in the bathroom4. Be extra careful in the bathroom
4. Be extra careful in the bathroom
According to Centers for Disease Control, over half of all injuries in people over age 85 involve using the toilet. The CDC states that bathing, showering and getting out of the tub or shower are where many accidents happen.
“Installing grab bars in the shower and near the toilet can provide stability when transferring your weight,” Lucas said.
5. Take your time in winter months5. Take your time in winter months
5. Take your time in winter months
Build in extra time when going out during the winter as rushing can set you up for a slip on the ice or a fall over the snow. If you don’t have railings on your outside steps, consider adding them. Keep your walks shoveled, and use salt where appropriate. Wear boots and shoes with good traction.
The Memorial Hospital is proud to offer a full team of master and doctorate level physical and occupational therapists in their new and improved facilities at 473 Yampa Ave. Therapists help enhance balance through exercise plans built just for you. If you are having balance issues, see your doctor.
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