Falling down can sound harmless. But for older adults it can result in serious, potentially life-threatening injuries.
More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls, and falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries as well as the number one cause of harm and resulting deaths among older Americans. And treating injuries caused by falls is costly, totaling more than $50 billion in 2015. A physical therapist can develop a personalized physical activity plan to help improve your strength, stability, and mobility and reduce your risk of falling.
Falls are preventable. A physical therapist can help you assess your risk factors and develop a plan to address them so you can remain independent.
Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To find a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.
Falls are not a normal part of aging, and they are preventable. If you find yourself losing your balance, it's time to reduce your risk. A great place to start is in your own home.
Here are some tips to make your home safer to prevent falls:
1. Restrain pets.
Pets are wonderful companions, but they can also get underfoot and cause us to trip. If your pet tends to hang out right by your feet or tends to bump into you, it can increase your risk of falling. Consider keeping pets in a room where you usually only sit, such as the living room. You can use baby gates or body leashes to keep them out of the kitchen and bathroom and off the stairs. Training can also teach them to stay away from your feet, both inside your house and when you are walking them outside.
2. Remove loose throw rugs and items on the floor.
Throw rugs and area rugs can buckle or have edges that roll up to catch your feet, creating a tripping hazard. It’s best to remove uninstalled, unsecured rugs.
3. Illuminate dark areas.
We rely on our vision to help keep our balance, especially as we age. Walking in a dark room can increase the risk of falling. Add light to areas in your home where you might walk after dark, such as stairs, hallways, and basements. Motion-detector lights work well, so you don’t have to find a light switch in the dark.
4. Slip-proof your tub and shower.
Slipping and falling in your bathroom can be very dangerous. Bathroom floors can become slippery from water and steam. Use nonslip mats on the bathroom floor and in the shower and tub. Install grab bars in the shower, so you have something to reach for if you lose your balance.
5. Wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Avoid slippers and loose footwear.
Loose or soft footwear, such as slippers and some sandals, can twist or slide off your feet and cause you to trip. They can also be slippery on some floor surfaces. Wear supportive shoes, such as sneakers, around your house. These type of shoes have good traction and prevent sliding on the floor. To avoid tracking outdoor dirt into your house, you can have a specific pair of sneakers that you only wear when inside your home.
How Physical Therapists Can Help
Physical therapist work with older adults on balance training, an important and effective part of falls prevention. A physical therapist can design a safe balance training program specific to your abilities.
Talk to your physical therapist for more tips to avoid falling and how to make your home safe.