The CDC estimates falls are responsible for 90% of injury-related emergency department and hospital visits among individuals 65 years and older. Although falls are common in this population, they are NOT a normal part of aging! To combat the rise in falls, fall-related injuries, and fall-related deaths, the CDC recommends a broader screening and prevention effort, including physical therapy. Do not wait until after a fall to address balance deficits.
Use these tips to reduce the possibility of a fall for yourself, a loved one, or a patient.
General Fall Prevention Safety Tips
- When coming downstairs, feel your heel against the back of the step to ensure your foot is placed securely on each step.
- When climbing up steps, use your legs to lift you. AVOID using the handrail to pull yourself up the stairs (hands can slip, and rails can come loose). Only use the handrail for added stability wherever possible.
- When you are not at home, be alert to possible hazards due to the unfamiliarity with the environment.
- Watch for curbs and curb cuts where sidewalks are present. Be aware of cement parking blocks in commercial and public parking lots.
- Always try to keep your cell phone with you, even when at home, or purchase a “lifeline” device in case of falls.
- Never rush to answer a ringing phone. Allow it to go to voicemail instead of rushing to pick it up.
- Never step on a chair or stool to grab an object out of reach. Always use a steady stepstool or have someone assist you.
Personal Safety Tips
- Have your vision and hearing tested regularly and corrected when necessary (allow time for adjusting to a stronger prescription, bi or trifocals).
- Avoid getting up too quickly after eating, lying down, or resting.
- Talk to your physician or pharmacist about the possible side effects of your medications and how they might affect your balance and coordination.
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Use a cane, walker, or other assistive devices to help maintain balance as recommended by your physical therapist.
- Maintain a regular program of physical activity.
Fall Prevention Tips for Walking On Wet, Slippery, and Unfamiliar or Uneven Surfaces
- Choose shoes that have slip-resistant soles. Avoid open-backed shoes and slippers.
- Pay attention to the surface you are walking on: be alert for ice, snow, wet leaves, moss-covered stone paths, or steps.
- Remember to salt icy sidewalks and pathways.
- Before getting out of your car, test the ground condition for wetness or iciness before standing up or walking.
TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR FALL RISKS IN AND AROUND YOUR HOME
Bath Safety Tips
- Install and use securely-fastened grab bars in and around the tub or shower.
- Install no-slip strips or non-skid mats in the bathtub or shower.
- Consider using a shower chair or a tub bench on which to sit while you shower to help prevent losing your balance.
- Use a hand-held shower unit. A hand-held shower can make bathing easier and prevent the need for standing and extending the head backward while washing hair.
- Have a non-slip mat available to step onto when finished to prevent slippage on tile flooring with wet feet.
- Be sure to dry your feet completely.
- Install and use secure handrails on both sides of any stairways, running their entire length.
- Install grab bars or handrails by the toilet, and raised toilet seats with or without handles can help make getting on and off the toilet easier to manage.
- Always turn on a light before entering a room. Replace burned-out bulbs immediately.
- To improve visibility at night, install night lights in hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms.
- Ensure that indoor and outdoor walkways are properly lighted, especially at night. Consider purchasing sensor devices so that lights turn on automatically.
- Carpeting should be securely fastened to the floor. Throw rugs are not recommended, but if used, use double-sided tape to secure the edges down. Edges and corners are easy to catch feet on if not secured.
- Always use an assistive device if a therapist has recommended one. Relying on walls and furniture for stability is NOT safe. Follow up with your physical therapist if you have questions or concerns.
- Place bright, contrasting colored tape on the top and bottom steps of stairways.
- Keep walkways clear of clutter and electrical cords.
- Use established walkways or firm surfaces when walking outside around the exterior of a house. Avoid uneven terrain if possible.
- Be alert for pets and children who may emerge quickly in front or behind you.
- Clean up all spills immediately.
Download these handy fall prevention checklists and tips, then reduce potential fall hazards in and around your home or your loved one’s home.
Geriatric and Fall Prevention Services in Greater Federal Way, WA
Meet Lillian Caplon, DPT
Wellspring Physical Therapy in Federal Way, Washington, is pleased to have Lillian Caplon, DPT, on our clinical team. Lillian has served geriatric populations since she graduated in 2015. She is experienced in treating and working with various conditions common in older adults, including those with neurological conditions, balance deficits, COPD, osteoporosis/arthritis, and pelvic health dysfunctions. At Wellspring Physical Therapy, clients will receive a full hour of one-on-one care with a movement and balance expert to get them back to the activities they love and to help them maintain their independence.
Contact us to schedule a physical therapy session in our Federal Way, WA clinic.
Healthcare Professionals: if you work with older adults in greater Federal Way, Washington, please contact Lillian with your questions or to set up a meeting to discuss the care of your patients.
If you are a healthcare professional working with older adults and would like more information about screening for fall risk, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/index.html
- Facts about Falls, https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- CDC Debuts Injury Prevention Campaign for Elders, https://www.mcknights.com/news/clinical-news/cdc-debuts-injury-prevention-campaign-for-elders-says-most-ed-visits-due-to-falls/
McKnights Long Term Care News
- CDC Still Going Strong Campaign, https://www.cdc.gov/stillgoingstrong/olderadults/index.html
- STEADI – Older Adult Fall Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)