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Fall Prevention: How To Prevent Falls (And What To Do In Case Of A Fall)


One of every four Americans over the age of 65 falls every year, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Additionally, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. The 10th annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day was observed on Sept. 22—the first day of fall. While the 22nd is dedicated to fall prevention awareness, any day is a good day to learn how to prevent falls and what to do if you or a loved one falls.

Fall Prevention For Older Adults

According to the NCOA, an older adult is seen in the emergency room for a fall-related injury every 11 seconds. The best way to prevent these injuries is to prevent the falls that cause them.

  • Find a good balance and exercise program. Staying active can go a long way in preventing falls. With your doctor’s OK, consider activities like walking, water workouts, or tai chi. These exercises can improve strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.
  • Talk to your doctor. Your doctor can assess your risk of falling. Make sure you mention previous falls and times where you almost fell. These details may help your doctor identify the best fall prevention plan for you.
  • Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Some medicines can increase the risk of falling. Make sure you take these only as prescribed. A doctor may consider weaning you off medications that make you tired or affect your thinking.
  • Get annual vision and hearing checkups. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.
  • Keep your home safe. Make sure that your walkways are clear of cords, newspapers, and boxes. Pay special attention to high-traffic areas and move furniture and plant stands from areas where you frequently walk. Secure or remove loose rugs and repair loose floorboards. Make sure you clean up spills immediately. Add nonslip mats, or a seat, to your bathtub or shower.
  • Talk to your family. They can support you and help you take steps to stay safe.
  • Mind your shoes. Wearing sensible shoes is another simple way to prevent a dangerous fall. Certain footwear like high heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick soles can be a fall hazard. Walking in socks or stockings is another hazard. Instead, wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles. Not only can proper footwear prevent falls, but they can also reduce joint pain.
  • Use assistive devices. Canes or walkers can help keep you steady. Also, think about installing handrails for both sides of stairways, nonslip treads for hardwood steps, and grab bars for the bathtub or shower. If you are concerned about the cost, remember that an investment in prevention is an investment in your independence and continued health and safety at home.

Fall Prevention For A Loved One

If you have an elderly parent or friend, you probably know how important it is to keep them safe from a fall. These are a few steps you can take to help them prevent falls.

  • Discuss their health conditions and their recent checkups. Ensuring that they have the most current vision prescription and are using glasses as advised is important.
  • Know their medications. Encourage them to talk to their doctor if they are experiencing worrisome side effects. Also, beware of over-the-counter medicines that contain sleep aids, which can lead to dizziness and balance issues.
  • Pay attention. Notice if they seem unsteady, have trouble walking or getting up from a chair, or if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when they walk. These may be signs that extra fall prevention steps need to be taken.
  • Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home. Is there enough lighting in the house? Are stair rails secure? Are there grab bars in the shower and near the toilet? Also, make sure that tripping hazards are removed and there are clear walking paths. There are modifications that can be made in the home to prevent falls.

What To Do If You Fall

Try not to panic; remaining calm will help you assess the situation. The best course of action depends on whether you are hurt and whether you can get up without help.

  • Check for injuries. This is the first thing you should do after a fall. If you’re not hurt, try to get up. If you’re hurt or unable to get up, call for help and keep warm.
  • Get up if you can. If you’re not hurt and you feel well enough, try your best to get up safely. The best way to get up will differ from person to person, but use these tips as a guide.
  1. Roll onto your side, and then slowly pull yourself up so you are on your hands and knees.
  2. Crawl toward a sturdy object, such as a solid chair or the stairs.
  3. Using the object, support your weight with your hands and slide one foot forward so it’s flat on the floor. Your other knee should remain on the floor.
  4. Pushing up from your arms and legs, slowly rise to your feet or to a sitting position.
  5. Rest for a few minutes.
  • Call for help. If you’re hurt, getting up could make your injury worse. To call for help, use an alarm if you have one. Try shouting or banging on a wall to attract your neighbor’s attention. If you can get to a phone, call a friend or family member, or 911.
  • Keep warm. It’s important to stay warm after calling for help so you don’t develop hypothermia. To keep warm:
  1. Move onto a soft surface, such as a carpet. Hard surfaces take longer to warm up.
  2. Reach for an item nearby to cover yourself, such as a blanket or article of clothing.
  3. Move away from drafty areas, like doors.
  4. Keep your body moving.

While falls are common for older adults, they can happen to anyone. There are many steps you can take to ensure that you or your loved ones stay on their feet. Some of these solutions are inexpensive or easily installed, and are invaluable protection from falls. There’s never a better time to review these fall prevention tips so you and your loved ones can stay safe, healthy, and independent.