Home Health: Safe At Home: Follow These Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Falls

by FirstHealth of the Carolinas

Most people assume retirement is full of vacations, time for hobbies and a home near the coast, but for many, the reality of retirement is quite different. 

The process can be a winding road. Some folks may still want to work here and there, while others are ready to fully disconnect and enjoy more time with friends and families. 

And where they do all of that is key. According to a study from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), most people approaching retirement hope to remain in their current residence for as long as they can. 

Many people feel attached to their homes because they grew up in them or moved to them to raise a family, but that may mean their homes aren’t quite ready for the changes that come with aging. 

Many seniors are at an increased risk for falls, for example. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as one out of every four seniors suffers from a fall each year. Many of these falls, as many as 20 percent, result in serious injury including broken bones, hip fractures, head injuries or worse. Many of these falls can cause a serious injury such as broken bones, hip fractures, head injuries or worse. But there are ways to reduce risks, according to Jill Botnick, director of FirstHealth Outpatient Rehabilitation. 

“We know that falling is not a natural consequence to aging, and that by staying active, you can reduce your risk of falling,” she said. “Once a person falls, they double their risk of falling again. Falling once often causes a person to develop a fear of falling, which can lead to a decrease in physical activities.” 

Botnick says staying active is one of the most important ways to reduce risk. 

Frequent exercise can improve strength and balance, while a thorough review of medications can ensure that they are having the intended effect and not leading to increased sleepiness or dizziness. 

And at home, there are dozens of ways to increase safety. According to the CDC, these are some of the most efficient ways to get your home ready: 

  • Remove tripping hazards like papers, books and shoes from stairways and places you frequently walk
  • Put small throw rugs away or use tape to keep them from slipping
  • Arrange furniture to create safe pathways
  • Keep frequently used items within reach – don’t rely on a step stool
  • Install grab bars next to and inside your tub or shower and next to toilets
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors
  • Improve the lighting throughout your home and especially in stairwells
  • Have handrails put in on both sides of all staircases
  • Wear shoes whenever possible – avoid slippers 

If you’re preparing a home for your parents or an elderly loved one, you can also consider in-home screening with a qualified physical therapist. Experts can identify potential risk factors for falling in fewer than 10 minutes. If you are identified as at-risk,  you can be referred to a program to help strengthen balance as a way to reduce potential risk.

“Talking to your doctor about falling, or the fear of falling, is important,” Botnick said. “They can evaluate your risk factors, and they can also refer you to specialists who can design safe programs that can help reduce risks, improve activity, function and, in the end, independence.” 

To schedule a screening, please call FirstHealth Outpatient Rehabilitation at (910) 715-2600.