What You Can Do to Prevent Falls

Preventing fallsFalls are the number one cause of death from injury among American adults ages 65 and older. Fortunately, many falls can be prevented. Learning how to prevent them can help keep you or a loved one safe.

Q: What are the primary causes of falls?

A: People fall for a variety of reasons. Some of the primary causes are:

  • Trips and slips
  • Impaired balance and reflexes
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Impaired vision
  • Chronic or acute illness

Certain medications can increase the risk of falling if they make a person feel dizzy or confused, or impair vision, balance, or the central nervous system. Medicines that may increase falling risk include muscle relaxants, sleeping pills, diuretics, and heart and blood pressure medications.

Q: What steps can be taken to prevent falls in the home?

A: These preventive steps can help:

  • Keep floors free of wires, cords, clutter, and throw rugs.
  • Ensure carpet is securely fastened to the floor and that large area rugs have skid-proof backing.
  • Install grab bars inside and outside the bathtub and shower and beside the toilet.
  • Clean up spills on flooring immediately to prevent slips.
  • Make sure stairwells are well-lit and have sturdy handrails installed on both sides.
  • Avoid ill-fitting, slippery, or otherwise unsafe footwear.

Q: What can reduce the risk of falling outdoors?

A: These safety tips can help prevent falls outside:

  • Wear shoes with low heels and rubber soles.
  • Use handrails on stairs, escalators, and inclines.
  • Clear leaves, snow, ice, and clutter from sidewalks, driveways, porches, and decks.
  • Slow down and step carefully when going up or down curbs.
  • Carry personal items in a shoulder bag, small backpack, or fanny pack to keep hands free to grasp railings.
  • Use a cane or walker for a steady gait.

Helping older adults stay in shape by encouraging them to do regular exercises that strengthen their legs and improve their balance can also decrease their risk of falling.

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