When we hear the term "fall prevention," we likely think of elderly people with canes and walkers scooting along ever so slowly. But the reality is we all fall down. The burning question though, is can you get up? Like seriously, can you (or your loved one) get up from the floor without any physical assistance? If the answer is yes, then great, you're one step ahead of the game. But if you struggle to get up from the floor, then your chances of sustaining life threatening injuries from a fall are very high.
As a physical therapist, I consider it my duty to help as many people 1. avoid falls and/or 2. demonstrate the ability to recover from falls as possible. By assessing and addressing fall risks in the home, working to improve posture, strength, range of motion, proprioception and flexibility and sticking to a regular routine centered around maintaining these 'benchmarks,' limiting falls in older adults (and the general population) is very feasible.
Here are my top tips for 'Simple' Fall Prevention:
Eliminate throw rugs in the home - I'm talking about those rugs you're always "fixing." If they move all the time, they will undoubtedly cause a fall. Get the heavy duty rugs and affix them to the floor or go without.
Ensure your home has adequate lighting - I know we all like to set the mood from time to time, but in general, keep all the light bulbs working properly so that you and guests that may be elderly, recovering from an injury or maybe just a bit clumsy, can see where they are walking. There's nothing like the pain of stubbing a toe on a threshold or cabinet corner because you couldn't see it.
Decrease clutter in your home - No one should be living like a hoarder, but even a small amount of clutter can become a fall risk. Keep walkways clear, papers stacked and stored neatly and be mindful of putting things where they belong. They will be easier to find later and less likely to cause a fall.
Reinforce stair rails - The stairs are a common and dangerous place to fall, especially if you have hardwood steps or landings. Periodically check to make sure your handrails are sturdy and supportive. If not, secure them or have a professional come in to look at them. It's absolutely worth the trouble.
Install handrails in the tub/shower - Might seem silly if you're young, injury-free and you rarely fall, but there comes a time when all of us will appreciate something to hold onto in the shower or tub. It's simple math...wet, soapy feet plus a slippery floor equals a potential fall. Let's decrease our odds here.
Place anti-slip mats in shower/tub - And while we're talking about slippery showers, do yourself a favor and grab an anti-slip mat. It will make showering a little less slippery for all.
If you follow these tips, your fall risk will drop significantly. But, the reality is, it is still possible to fall. Sometimes people faint or their legs completely give out. Whatever the reason, it's a great idea to have some things in place for yourself or your elderly/injured loved ones who may live or spend several hours at home alone. I recommend that clients use medical alert jewelry all the time, but I realize that comes with a certain stigma for some. I have recently been made aware of the Medical Guardian by Caring.com and I have to say, I'm very impressed with its features, versatility and style. It has so many amazing options and packages to meet the needs of everyone. Check them out here.
Fall prevention is literally for everyone. We all need to keep ourselves safe and obviously, our elderly loved ones as well. Being prepared can be the difference between life and death...or at the very least, a minor injury and a serious one. Let's all work together to prevent falls and save lives.