Nearly everyone will experience a slip-and-fall accident at some point in their life. Assuming it’s a same-level fall – not a fall from an elevated surface – most healthy young adults won’t sustain serious injuries from falls. Seniors, however, are more vulnerable to fall-related injuries. According to Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), falls are the most common form of injury across Canada: every day last year, falls resulted in almost 1,800 reported emergency department visits and 417 hospital admissions. In fact, more seniors die from falls than any other type of physical injury. However, there are ways for seniors to protect themselves from fall injuries.
Wear Non-Slip Shoes
Older adults should wear non-slip shoes to reduce their risk for falls. These shoes are designed with special soles that create stronger traction with the floor to protect against slip-and-fall accidents. Typically made of hard rubber rather than leather, the soles of non-slip shoes have a crisscrossing pattern to protect against slip-and-fall accidents. Even when walking on a smooth, flat surface, it’s almost impossible to slip and fall while wearing a pair of high-quality non-slip shoes.
Illuminate the Home
Insufficient lighting is a contributing factor to fall injuries among seniors. Seniors suffering from age-related vision loss may struggle to see inside their home without proper lighting. A few basic overhead fixtures can provide some illumination, but it’s not enough to provide full visual clarity. Therefore, seniors should install high-lumen lighting throughout their home, including the entryways, bedrooms, hallways, bathrooms, kitchen, stairs and garage. High-lumen lighting is designed to provide more visual light than low-lumen lighting, allowing seniors to see better inside their home.
Eliminate Tripping Hazards
Statistics show that about one-third of all fall injuries among older adults caused by environmental hazards, specifically tripping hazards. If a senior unknowingly steps on an object on the floor, he or she may trip and fall. By eliminating tripping hazards from their home, seniors can reduce their risk for falls.
Use a Shower Bench
Seniors experience more slips and falls while bathing or showering than performing any other activity. When the water is running, it creates a slippery surface on the bottom of the tub or shower greatly increasing the risk for fall injuries. Stepping into or out of the tub or shower – or taking a few steps to grab a bottle of shampoo – can cause a senior to slip and fall. To protect against falls in a tub or a shower, seniors should use a shower bench. Also known as a transfer bench, the shower bench is a mobility device that features a seat with grab bars on the side. Once placed inside the shower, seniors can bathe themselves while comfortably seated rather than standing or lying down, virtually eliminating the risk for falls.
Install a Raised Toilet Seat
In addition to a shower bench, seniors can also install a raised toilet seat to reduce their risk for falls. According to Canadian Institute for Health Information, 14 percent of fall injuries among seniors involve the toilet. While that injury rate is less than that of showering and bathing, it still attests to the dangers of using the toilet as a senior. The problem with most toilet bowls is that they are positioned at a very low level. With an average toilet bowl height of just 38 centimeters, seniors often struggle to safely get on and off the toilet. There are elevated toilet seats, however, which extend the sitting height of a toilet bowl by 5 to 12 centimeters. Some are designed to clip onto a toilet’s existing seat, whereas others are designed to replace the seat. Regardless, all elevated seats help seniors get on and off the toilet without falling.
Use Caution When Taking Medication
Certain types of medication can increase the risk for falls. A study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that seniors who took a prescription blood pressure medication were up to 40 percent more likely to sustain a serious injury from falling than their counterparts who didn’t take any prescription blood pressure medication. Researchers believe that medications used to treat high blood pressure cause dizziness and fainting when a person initially stands up. Therefore, seniors who take these medications may lose their balance when standing from sitting position. Of course, dozens of other medications can cause drowsiness, including antihistamines, sleep aides, anxiety drugs and muscle relaxants.
Install Non-Slip Flooring
The right type of flooring can reduce the risk for fall injuries among seniors. Although it’s attractive, hardwood flooring isn’t recommended for seniors because of its flat, smooth surface. Even when it’s dry, a senior can easily slip and fall while walking on the hardwood. Instead of hardwood, seniors should consider installing heavy-duty carpet. Carpet flooring isn’t just soft and comfortable; it’s safe for seniors. The rugged texture of carpet allows for stronger traction when walking or standing. Alternatively, there’s non-slip vinyl flooring that’s designed with a textured surface to reduce the risk of slip-and-fall accidents.
Use Handrails When Going Up and Down Stairs
A senior who lives in a home with stairs should always use the handrails while going up and down. The handrails should be securely anchored to the wall and have the ability to support the senior’s weight if he or she is forced to grab them to prevent a fall. Falling from any height can cause injury, but falling from a flight of stairs is a more troubling scenario that often results in a serious injury. Thankfully, handrails can help seniors safely use the stairs in their home.
Avoid Wearing Loose-Fitted Clothing
A little-known risk factor for fall injuries among seniors is wearing loose-fitted clothing. A long bathrobe, for example, may feature excess fabric that drags on the ground and creates a tripping hazard. Long gowns and trousers pose a similar tripping hazard. To reduce the risk for trip-and-fall accidents, seniors should wear form-fitting clothes that don’t drag on the ground.
Stay Physically Active
Physically active seniors are less likely to suffer from fall injuries than their less-active counterparts. By going for a walk, performing aerobics and engaging in other physical activities, seniors can strengthen their muscles and bones. As a result, seniors can control their bodies more effectively to prevent falls. And, if physically active seniors experience falls, they are less likely to sustain serious injuries because of their stronger muscles and bones.
The risk of falling shouldn’t prevent seniors from moving around and enjoying their life. Anyone can fall at any time in their life. Following the above mentioned tips, however, can protect seniors from fall injuries.