A Guide to Home Safety

How to Prevent Accidental Falls

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Using a walker can help the elderly avoid falls.

Accidental falls, especially by senior citizens, are fairly common. By making simple preparations, you can lower the chances of you or another household member falling and being injured in your home.

Approximately 30 percent of those 65 and older fall each year. Accidental falls, especially around the home, kill more people over 65 than any other single type of injury, and they are the leading cause of accidental death for people over age 85. Those suffering from the residual effects of a stroke are especially susceptible to falling because of visual deficits, weakness, gait problems, and the effects of medication. In addition to breaking bones, falling can injure an older person's self-confidence, causing them to restrict their activities for fear of falling again.

Anyone can fall because of carelessness, stress, poor vision, or a loss of balance due to the side effects of drugs or alcohol. While the actual fall may result in nothing more than a bruise or slight cut, falling against a hot stove or hitting one's head against a hard object can cause a serious injury.

With awareness and preplanning, most of these falls can be avoided. Generally, you should take care to avoid high-risk situations: Don't jump right out of bed; the sudden change in blood pressure could make you feel dizzy. And NEVER use a chair as a step stool. Try to move more methodically. For example, take your time answering the phone; if you hurry, you could fall.

Here are some prevention tips:

  • Install photocell night-lights in your hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms, and near the staircase so they light automatically when it is dark.
  • If you need glasses for distance, be sure to wear them while walking around the house.
  • Increase the wattage of lightbulbs lighting all staircases.
  • Keep a flashlight on your nightstand so that late night trips are not attempted blind.
  • Remove scatter rugs or be certain they are securely taped to the floor or have a nonskid backing. Air-dry bath mats so the rubber backing doesn't crack.
  • Keep all staircases free from toys, shoes, or other clutter.
  • Wear shoes and slippers with nonslip soles.
  • Don't walk up or down stairs in stocking feet.
  • Wipe up all kitchen spills immediately. A dab of butter, a grape, or a piece of lettuce can turn a kitchen floor into an ice rink, with potentially disastrous results.
  • Relocate or tape down extension cords and telephone cords that might make someone trip.
  • Be sure floor surfaces are not slippery. After washing them, block them off from traffic until they are totally dry.

Children and the elderly have the greatest risk of experiencing a fall and also of suffering a serious injury as a result. If you have young children or an older person in the house take these extra precautions:

  • Install sturdy handrails on both sides of staircases.
  • Install a safety gate at the top and bottom of stairs to prevent toddlers from climbing up and falling down the steps.
  • Open windows from the top, not the bottom, to keep children from falling out; screens are not strong enough to hold even small children.
  • If you suffer from osteoporosis or have an unsteady gait from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, or any other disorder, use a walker or a cane for added support.
  • Install grab bars in tubs, in showers, and near the toilet. You don't have to be old or pregnant to feel suddenly dizzy or weak.
  • Use nonskid rubber mats or rubber stickers in bathtubs and shower stalls.
  • Mark the bottom step with high-visibility tape, a different color paint, or some other highly visual marking.

While accidental falls are more common in the elderly, accidental drowning is more common in children. Read the next page to find out how you can prevent someone from drowning inside or outside your home.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.