Preventing Senior Falls: Ensuring the Senior can Interact with Their Environment

Published by Stephen on February 1, 2010 Under fall prevention

Falls are one of the most common types of injuries for seniors, which can be quite serious and often result in the need for hospitalization. Numerous studies have found that recovering from a fall or other serious injury is much more difficult for the elderly, often requiring a major change in life style, such as a stay at a nursing home or other assisted living facility. In fact, of seniors who suffer a serious injury, there is a significant risk that it will affect their ability to independently preform the essential activities of daily life, which include bathing, using the toilet, and preparing food.

The effects of a senior fall are all too often very long lasting and it is not uncommon for it to complete change the way the senior lives. As a result, it is very important to make sure that the risk of a senior fall is reduced.

Walking and Getting Around Safely

One of the most important steps in preventing falls is to make sure that the senior is able to get around as easily and safely as possible. This starts with making sure that the senior has a quality pair of shoes, with a nonskid sole.

Since arthritis, poor vision, and limited dexterity can make tying a shoe very difficult, avoiding shoes with laces is usually a good idea. This is because the shoes should fit well and not come off easily, but it is also important that they can be put on without assistance. It is very important that the senior is not able to easy to step out of the shoe when walking, so slippers or thong sandals should be avoided.

There are a number of senior shoes that are designed with this in mind and fit over the foot, but won’t come off while they are walking. These shoes sometimes have Velcro or are otherwise molded to fit the shape of the foot, as well as having a non-skid surface on the bottom.

In addition to having a quality pair of shoes, using a cane or walker is also a good idea. Rolling walkers, or rollators, should be the first choice, as these are much easier to use. Rollators have wheels installed on the end of the walker, so that as the senior walks, they can push it in front of them. They have hand brakes that can be locked in place without having to hold the brakes manually. Also, they usually feature a small seat, so when using a rollator, the senior will always have a place to sit. What makes these better than traditional walkers or cane is that the rollator does not need to be picked up and repositioned with each step and is instead simply pushed in front of the senior.

Ensuring the Living Environment is Safe

Another essential step in preventing falls is to make sure that the living environment is safe for the senior. This can differ a great deal depending on where the senior lives, but usually adopting an open living environment with wide clear paths around each room is very important.

Loose carpets and other items, such as large vases or even lamps that stand on the floor should either be removed or positioned in a manner that does not interfere with the walking of the senior at all.

If there are steps between rooms, such as having to step down into the living room, this can present a serious fall risk, so if these sorts of steps can not be avoided, they should be clearly marked. However, this applies to full sized staircases as well.

Using a highly visible grip tape, which is textured so that even when wearing shoes it can be felt and is usually very brightly colored, can be placed on each step to make it easier to see and feel.

Lighting is also very important and the lighting should be easy to use, without having to struggle with an individual lamp or small switch. In many homes it is possible to hook lamps up to an electrical outlet that is controlled by a wall switch, so whenever the senior enters the room they can switch the lamps on easily. Lighting on the stairs is also important, both inside the home and outside.

It is important that the lights can be turned on without having to use the stairs. For example, on an indoor staircase, it is very important that a light-switch is installed on both the top and bottom of the stairs. This way, no matter if the senior is at the bottom or top of the staircase, the lights can easily be turned on. Outside, using a motion sensor light can often be a good idea, but it is important that it is sensitive enough to turn on when needed and in all areas.

Bathroom safety is another important consideration and having grab bars that are properly secured is very important. They should be located in the bathtub, around the toilet, and by the sink. It can also be a good idea to remove towel racks and replace them with smaller grab bars, so if the senior begins to fall they can confidently grab any bar in the room.

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