Fall Prevention Strategies
Older adults who fall are more likely to suffer from a severe injury. Fall prevention strategies, like adding home modifications or scheduling routine eye exams, can help you avoid this unnecessary risk. Learn about the safety measures you can take to deter future injuries by using a fall prevention checklist.
- Written by Lindsey Crossmier
Lindsey Crossmier is an accomplished writer with experience working for The Florida Review and Bookstar PR. As a financial writer, she covers Medicare, life insurance and dental insurance topics for RetireGuide. Research-based data drives her work.Read More
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- Reviewed By Bart Astor
- Published: July 5, 2022
- Updated: May 23, 2023
- 6 min read time
- This page features 5 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
Strategies for Preventing Falls
Falling can greatly affect older adults physically, socially and emotionally. Falls that were once only minor scrapes and bruises as a child now have serious consequences through retirement life.
The older you get, the less stable your body becomes, increasing your chances of injury. Fall risk is heightened due to both internal and external factors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an older adult falls every second of every day, making falls the leading cause of injury and death for this age group in America.
Practicing senior safety and following strategies to prevent falls can help keep you or your loved ones safe.
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Drink plenty of water and eat dietary sources with an abundance of calcium and vitamin D. Many older adults suffer from dehydration or lack a diet that maintains good bone health.
- Stay active and exercise
- Exercising regularly can keep you fit, stable and flexible. The nimbler and stronger you are, the less likely you are to fall.
- Visit your doctor regularly
- Check for health issues and get treatment when needed. You should also confirm if any of your medication will make you dizzy or sleepy. Consult your doctor before you remove any medications that increase your risk of falling.
- Schedule eye and hearing exams
- As you age, your hearing and eyesight will worsen. An inability to see obstacles in your home can be dangerous. Similarly, limited hearing can cause you to startle easily, putting you at risk for falling.
- Wear sensible footwear
- Avoid backless shoes, flip flops and heels. Choose supportive rubber soled orthopedic shoes instead to reduce fall risk.
- Consider adding home modifications
- Place bed rails, anti-slip shower mats and rug pads in necessary areas of your home.
Fall Prevention Checklist
Follow a fall prevention checklist to reduce the chance of falling. You review your safety habits and the risk factors of your home and vehicle.
Keep in mind that state and local government programs have departments to help implement home modification and education. The Eldercare locator tool can help connect you to resources within your community to help you implement fall prevention modifications in your home.
Over half of falls happen within your own home, according to Living Assistance Services. Securing tripping hazards, having proper lighting and decluttering high-traffic areas of your home can prevent dangerous falls.
- Home entrance
- Living room
- Halls and stairways
In the Car
Getting in and out of your vehicle gets more difficult as you age. If you have a tall car, like a truck, you may want to trade it in for a shorter vehicle, such as a sedan. There are several safety measures you can take with any vehicle.
- Place a car seat cushion that swivels in your seat.
- Being able to swivel easily will help you get in and out of the car easier.
- Install a grab bar.
- Placing a grab bar near the roof of your car will keep you steady.
Wheelchair accessible vehicles are also available for those who need the additional assistance.
There are other precautions you can take to prevent falls. For example, you can purchase an assistive device, such as a cane or walker, to help keep you steady.
Many consider a personal medical alert system as well. Personal medical alert systems are typically a bracelet or necklace with a button. When you press the button, someone will be called to get you immediate assistance.
Risk Factors for Falling
Risk factors for falling depend on your overall health and environment. Monitoring your health and following the home fall prevention checklist can reduce your risk of falling.
There are also government-affiliated fall risk screening tools if you want to test your balance and strength. Several screening tests include the Alternative Step Test and Sit to Stand Test (STS).
Understanding the internal and external risk factors, along with the screening tools, can help you prevent future falls.
Internal Risk Factors
Internal risk factors regard your overall health and quality of self-care. For example, you may be more at risk of falling if you don’t exercise often or renew your eyesight prescription.
- Reduced strength and stability
- Poor eyesight and hearing
- Unbalanced medications
- Recent falls
- Risky or incautious behavior
External Risk Factors
External risk factors are from your environment, such as obstacles in your car or home. These issues can typically be resolved with simple home modifications or tidying up.
- Throw rugs
- Uneven surfaces
- Low lighting
- Stairs without railing
- Lack of grab bars in restroom
- Wet floors
- Unsupportive footwear
- Overuse of alcohol
Impact of Falling
Falling can take an emotional, social and physical toll on older adults. Some may avoid self-care and retain chronic injuries from falling.
Other impacts of fallings include uncertainty to live independently, interrupted daily routine and stress with day-to-day activities.
Falling can make older adults afraid to complete simple tasks, like getting water or making a meal. According to BioMed Central, roughly 85% of older adults who live at home experience a fear of falling, which leads to a poor quality of life.
After falling, most seniors avoid leaving their homes out of fear of being injured again. This results in missing out on social events, family functions and connecting with loved ones.
Being isolated can affect your mental health and make you feel depressed, anxious and lonely.
While some falls have minor consequences, like a couple scrapes or bruises, others can have a severe physical impact.
Falling can cause serious head injuries and broken bones. According to the CDC, hip fractures are the most common type of fall injury, with over 300,000 hospitalization each year. In fact, 40% of those who suffer a hip fracture never return home and 20% pass away within a year of fracturing their hip, according to Living Assistance Services.
You can maintain your mobility by taking the proper precautions to avoid falls.
What to Do If You Fall
If you fall, you should first try to identify any damage before attempting to stand up. Wait a few moments to overcome the shock and then try to move your limbs slowly.
If someone lives with you, you can ask them to help you stand up. However, if they are also at risk of falling, it may be best to try to stand up on your own.
Even if you aren’t injured, you should still be cautious when trying to stand up. Roll over on your side and crawl up on your hands and knees first. Crawl to a sturdy chair or couch and use it as support to pull yourself up.
5 Cited Research Articles
- Queensland Government. (2021, February 2). Individual Falls Risk Screening - Stay On Your Feet. Retrieved from https://www.health.qld.gov.au/stayonyourfeet/for-professionals/screening-indiv
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 16). Keep on Your Feet—Preventing Older Adult Falls. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html#:~:text=Every%20second%20of%20every%20day,particularly%20among%20the%20aging%20population.
- Wilson, A., et al. (2018, October 26). Carers’ Concerns About Their Older Persons (Carees) at Risk of Falling – A Mixed-Methods Study Protocol. Retrieved from https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-018-3632-6#:~:text=Falls%20can%20cause%20adverse%20psychological,confidence%20in%20balance%20%5B5%5D
- Living Assistance Services, Inc. (n.d.). Safe and Steady: A Fall Prevention Resource. Retrieved from https://cdn.visitingangels.com/brochures/Safe-and-Steady-A-Fall-Prevention-Resource.pdf
- Eldercare Locator. (n.d.). Find Help in Your Community by Entering Your Zip Code or City and State. Retrieved from https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx