Slips and falls can cause injuries or even death in our aging and ailing populations. As a caregiver, one of your major concerns may be how to prevent slips, trips, and falls. In this article, we will explore the issues that a fall can cause as well as how to prevent them – how to make your loved one’s environment a little safer.
Why Falls are a Problem
According to the CDC, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), one out of every three older (65+) adults falls every year. Many of these falls result in serious or debilitating injuries. In rare cases, even death.
- Each year, around 300,000 older adults are hospitalized for a hip fracture.
- Over 95% of these hip fractures are caused by falling.
- Falls also cause most of the fractures elder adults see in their spine, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, hand, and upper arm (Source)
- Falls can cause a range of injuries from moderate to severe, such as hip fractures, head traumas, traumatic brain injuries, lacerations, or limited mobility.
- Around 30,000 older adults die each year because of an unintentional fall. (Source)
What Causes Slips, Trips, and Falls?
You may now wonder why falls happen. An important thing to note is that slips, trips, and falls are not a necessary part of aging.
One misconception is that the majority of dangerous falls are caused by stairs, so those living in single-story homes need not worry as much. Contrary to that thought, most falls happen on a flat or level surface – something on the same level that was slipped on or tripped over. A step or height difference causes about 30%, or only a fraction, of devastating falls.
A slip is the feeling of your feet coming out from under you. Slips are caused by a lack of traction and friction between the person walking and the walking surface. Here are some examples of things that cause slips:
- A spill
- Slick flooring
- Loose rugs or mats that move/bunch as they’re used
- Wet or oily surfaces
- Weather (such as icy conditions)
A trip happens when your foot hits an object in a way that causes you to lose balance. Trips are caused by:
- Poor lighting
- Impaired vision
- Obstructed view
- Small animals or children
- Excess clutter
- Mats and rugs that are not anchored to the ground
- Uneven surfaces (such as steps)
- A wrinkle or curl in a carpet
- Cables and wires
- Poorly fitted shoes
- Or shoes that have more height/rubber in the sole than the person is used to walking in
Falls are usually the result of an unrecoverable loss of balance from either a trip or a slip.
How Can You Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls?
As we touched on, slips, trips and falls are not a normal part of aging. The good news is that, in most cases, we can prevent them. Here are some ways to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
Keep the house tidy
One of the best ways to prevent injuries and accidents is to keep your house in good order. This includes tasks like:
- Cleaning up all spills immediately.
- Making sure anyone at risk of falling is aware of any potentially hazardous surfaces (for example, marking areas that are wet).
- Replacing lightbulbs as they burn out or dull and adding lighting in areas that are dim.
- Mopping or sweeping frequently
- Decluttering all walking paths and removing obstacles from stairways
- Securing or removing all rugs and mats
- Illuminate stairs and hallways using strip lighting
- Always closing drawers, cabinets, hutches, etc.
- Securing any cables that cross a walking path or rerouting them around the perimeter of the house
Throughout your home (both indoors and outdoors), there are places that could be made safer with handrails. If possible, add grab bars and handrails to bathrooms, showers, hallways, staircases, areas that are frequently damp, etc.
The CDC recommends staying active using exercises that improve leg strength and balance – these exercises are a great way to prevent falls and injuries.
Talk to your loved one’s doctor or care team
If you are afraid that you or a loved one are at risk of falling, tell your doctor right away. This will allow them to:
- Review any medications, supplements, or prescriptions that may cause dizziness.
- Have your loved one’s eyes checked and potentially recommend an update to glasses or contacts.
- Offer solutions to manage dizziness or lightheadedness if they are unrelated to medication.
- Have your loved one’s feet checked. A foot specialist, or podiatrist, may help spot any hazards or recommend proper custom footwear.
- And more.
Heightened awareness of hazardous situations
Your loved one may find themselves in a situation that increases the risk of injury or falls. Here are some examples of situations where it is best to use heightened caution:
- Moving objects
Avoid carrying or pushing something that obstructs your view from one room to another.
- Small pets/children
If you find yourself in a home with small children or pets running around, try to time your movements when they are seated.
Avoid excess walking outdoors on a wet or icy day.
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you are afraid that you or a loved one are at risk of a trip, slip, or fall, it is perfectly OK to talk to someone and accept help. For example, if you need to move a large, awkward, or heavy object, ask someone to help you. This is just one example of many where it is better to accept help than risk injury.
Try wearable technology
Finally, if you are afraid that a trip, slip, or fall may happen while you are away, wearable technology can provide a bit of peace of mind. There are devices designed for your loved one that would allow him or her to alert emergency services if they fell while home alone.
While slips, trips, and falls are terrifying and a genuine risk, there are many things you can do to prevent them. The CDC offers a self-assessment to help you understand the risk of falling that your loved one is facing so you can do what you can to prevent it.
As a family caregiver, you face new challenges every day. We created the California Caregiver Resource Centers with you both in mind and at heart to be a free resource as you navigate the challenging role you’re in. We would love to connect you with your local Center, where you can find information about local programs for caregivers, answer your questions, and explain how they can best support you.Share this post: