Falls are a serious concern for seniors. Falls are the leading cause of injury death, and the most frequent cause of non-fatal trauma among those age 65 and older. Sadly, half of all older adults that are hospitalized for a hip fracture are not able to return home or live independently after their injury. In general, the causes of falls can be divided into two categories: personal factors and environmental factors. Personal factors for seniors include increased muscle weakness, balance problems, changing or limited vision, and certain medications. Environmental factors include home hazards such as clutter, loose rugs, or other tripping hazards; poor lighting, especially on stairs; and not having stair railings or grab bars in the bathroom. Creating a home environment that reduces the risk of falls should be a priority for anyone wishing to age in place.
Today we will look at two potentially hazardous areas of the home and the modifications that can be made to reduce the risk of falling. First, we will look at the bathroom. The National Institute on Aging reports that 80% of falls occur in the bathroom. However, some minor modifications can significantly reduce the risk of falling. Imagine the bathroom that senses motion and activates the light as you enter. At night the same motion sensor slowly brightens to gently illuminate your path to the bathroom. Once in the bathroom, the raised toilet seat automatically opens and a soft light illuminates the bowl. The floor is free from clutter and trip hazards and tasteful hand rails are securely mounted by the toilet and in the shower. These simple modifications can go a long way to help individuals of any ability reduce fall risk. For those with less mobility, additional modification may be desired to make the shower enclosure more easily accessible and comfortable. These modification could include a zero-entry shower with heated bench to sit on while showering.
The second hazard area we will examine today is the staircase. Stairs can present a fall hazard to any age but as we get older the mechanics of navigating the stairs can become more challenging. Among the reasons why, changing vision, balance, strength, and gait. Most concerning about falls on stairs is that compared to falls on level surfaces they represent an increased risk for death or major injury such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) and hip fracture. At minimum the stairs in the home of an aging adult should be well lit and have a sturdy handrail. Caution should be taken when carrying any objects up or down the stairs as one’s ability to catch themselves in the event of a fall is limited. For some, installing a stairlift is a great option. A stairlift can allow aging adults to continue to confidently reach all areas of their home.
If you have questions about how to reduce the risk of falls a LiveWell Mobility professional can complete a complimentary in-home assessment and make suggestions on modifications that are appropriate for you or your loved one’s unique personal and environmental factors. LiveWell Mobility is an all-in-one resource for all your aging at home needs. We want aging adults to start thinking beyond just aging in place and think about how they can thrive in place. Reducing the risk of avoidable falls is one key way to ensure you are able to stay active and independent!