Reducing Risks of Falls at Home

Adult woman standing next to adult man

Because older adults spend a great deal of time at home, falls at home become a serious threat to independence and healthy aging. As a matter of fact, more than one-third of all individuals 65 years and older fall each year. Falls are the fifth leading cause of death among Japanese Americans in California. 20% to 30% of those who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as hip fractures and head traumas. Those 75 years or older who fall are more than four to five times as likely to spend more than one year in a long term care facility than those who do not fall. Women sustain about 80% of all hip fractures. The potential for a hip fracture among either sex increases exponentially with age. Those over 85 years old are 10 to 15 times more likely to fracture a hip than someone 60 to 65 years old.

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What are the risk factors for falls?

Most researchers have identified a number of common risk factors:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Problems with walking and balance
  • Weakened sensory-nervous system
  • Acute medical conditions
  • Taking four or more medications or any psychoactive medications
  • Environmental hazards and obstacles that may compromise safe mobility

How can I reduce my risk for falls?

Exercising regularly can help you reduce the risk of falls by increasing your strength, improving muscle tone, and keeping joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible. Mild weight-bearing exercises are recommended as they may help prevent osteoporosis.

Getting physical check-ups regularly can also reduce the risk of falls. Changes in eye sight and hearing can affect your balance and make you less aware of your environment. Knowing possible side effects of your medications is also important since some medications can make you dizzy – increasing the risk of falls.

Standing up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop and make you dizzy as well. Standing up slowly after eating, lying down or resting will reduce this risk. Also, if you are standing up from a wheelchair, make sure that the wheels of the chair are locked and secure. If you need to hold onto to something to stand up, check to see if the object is stable.

I have heard about a class offered through Keiro called “A Matter of Balance.” What is it?

Older adults may become fearful of falling due to a fall incident in the past. The fear can be so strong that sometimes it controls one’s life and limits activity level, which may lead to isolation and depression. A Matter of Balance, developed at Boston University, is an evidence-based program which addresses such issues and benefits those who are concerned about falls, have fallen in the past, have restricted activities because of falling concerns, or are interested in improving balance, flexibility and strength.

The class is led by trained volunteers and meets for two hours once a week for eight consecutive weeks. For the upcoming class schedule, or how to host the class at your organization, please email kkusano@keiro.org or call (323) 980-2353.

What can I do to make my home fall-proof?

The following suggestions are from the National Institute on Aging to make your home safe:

  • Remove tripping hazards such as slippery throw rugs or electric cords that cross walking areas
  • Use non-slip bath tub mats or floor strips
  • Install grab bars near the toilet or by the tub/shower
  • Put railings up on both sides of stairways
  • Improve lighting in the home
  • Use nightlights where possible
  • Reduce clutter in the home
  • If the grandchildren visit often, store toys in a storage box and off the floor
  • Clean up spills and dropped food on the floor
  • Use non-slip rug liners if you use throw rugs
  • Use a sturdy step stool with hand rails instead of climbing on unstable objects like boxes
  • Use a cane or walker for stabilization
  • Wear well- fitting shoes
  • Ask for help when necessary

Where can I get more information?

Fall Prevention Center of Excellence
Headquaters
University of Southern California Andrus Gerontology Center
3715 McClintock Ave., Room 228
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191
(213)740-1364
www.stopfalls.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)
4770 Buford Hwy, NE
MS F-63
Atlanta, GA 30341-3717
1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332)
www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/falls.htm

Home Safety Council
1250 Eye Street, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 330 4900
www.homesafetycouncil.org

National Institute on Aging
Building 31, Room 5C27
31 Center Drive, MSC 2292
Bethesda, MD 20892
(301)496-1752
1(800) 222-4225 (TTY)
(301) 496-1072 (fax)
www.nia.nih.gov

Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, DC 20207
1-800-638-2772
1-800-638-8270 (TTY)
www.cpsc.gov