7 steps to survive falls
Use these tips around the house and decrease your chances of serious injury.
Here’s some trouble stats from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Each year in the United States, one in three adults over 65 years of age falls. Long-term physical injuries, such as hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries, are merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of consequences and costs of older adult falls.
About 20 to 30 percent of older adult falls cause moderate to serious injuries that can limit mobility, diminish quality of life, and increase the risk of premature death.
Falls cause over 95 percent of hip fractures and are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury.
One-in-five people who sustain a hip fracture die within a year following their injury.
Annually, falls among older adults are responsible for more than 25,000 deaths, 2.5 million emergency department visits, and more than 700,000 hospitalizations.
The cost of treating injuries resulting from falls increases with age and accounted for more than $34 billion in direct medical costs in 2013.
Not good news, to be sure.
Half of all human falls happen at home, and many occur when older people are doing everyday activities — reaching for objects overhead, climbing on a step stool or walking down the stairs.
The reasons for falls are varied: poor eyesight weakened muscles or dizziness from medication. For many reasons, seniors often aren’t as steady on their feet and lose their balance.
I’ve fallen a couple of times with no serious injuries except to my pride. Much of the time I follow my therapists’ advice: Get on my stomach and crawl to the nearest vertical piece of furniture. I climb up the legs of the piece until I’m erect. Then pull the rest of me the way up.
What can you do to prevent falls? Carefully inspect your house — inside and out — and consider making these changes that will increase the safety of the home, from AARP:
For All rooms
Install carpet with short, dense pile.
Secure rugs with double-sided carpet tape and make thresholds even.
Make sure electrical and extension cords are out of the way.
Keep exits and hallways open.
Provide bright, evenly distributed light.
Use lampshades that reduce glare.
Make sure light switches and electrical outlets are easy to reach.
Use night lights.
Put handrails on both sides of stairways.
Make sure steps are in good repair.
Use non-skid contrasting tape, rubber stair treads, or coated, skid-resistant surface treatment on non-carpeted stairs in one-inch intervals. Use three long strips of tape on each step.
Check carpeting to make sure it is firmly attached along stairs. Make immediate repairs to worn or loose carpet.
Choose a carpet pattern that doesn’t hide step edges, making it look like steps have ended when they haven’t.
Remove any rugs at the top or bottom of stairways.
Use at least 60-watt bulbs in stairways and have on-off switches at the top and bottom of stairs.
Get sturdy step stools — preferably with handrails — to reach upper shelves.
Avoid using floor wax.
Use rubber bathmats or strips in bathtubs and showers.
Install at least two grab bars in the bath.
Secure bathroom rugs to the floor.
Use raised toilet seats and/or install handrails near the toilet.
Be sure there is adequate lighting to get safely in and out of the house.
Install handrails along any flight of outdoor steps.
Buy sand or salt for icy walkways.
Keep steps, sidewalks, decks and porches clear of trash.
Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.