Tips for Fall Prevention
For many people, the prospect of falling is no laughing matter, with risk of serious injury. Even for healthy, able-bodied people, a hard fall can be a big deal! Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to help prevent falls, especially in your own living space.
Reduce Environmental Hazards:
One of the best ways you can prevent falls is to eliminate/mitigate tripping hazards on your floors. Remove loose objects (shoes, boxes, etc) from your floors to eliminate the possibility of tripping on them. On the plus side, your space will look less cluttered.
Throw Away The Throw Rugs! Area rugs are a surprisingly real tripping hazard. Consider removing them, or, securing their edges with double-sided tape to avoid the scenario where your foot catches the edge of the rug and makes it fold up, snaring your foot and tripping you up. In general, keeping high-traffic areas where you walk frequently clear of obstructions will go a long way to reducing the possibility of a fall.
Light up your life! A well-lit living space also makes you safer from the possibility of falling. In poor lighting conditions it’s more difficult to gauge distances, making it easier to misstep and get tripped up. Fall hazards like liquid spills or stray objects can also go unnoticed in the dark.
Don’t be too proud to make use of assistive devices if you think you need them. Installing handrails and putting non-slip mats in your shower, for example, help to mitigate one of the situations where a serious fall is the most likely. You might also want to add treads to stairs in order to make them less slippery.
Let’s Talk About Shoes
You might not want to hear this, but if falling is a serious issue for you, it may be time to retire your favorite fuzzy slippers, your most stylish high heels, or that beloved pair of sneakers whose outsoles have been worn smooth from years of use. A sturdy pair of sneakers with outsoles that have some grip greatly reduce the risk of falling in a lot of situations, inside your house and out. In the long run, sacrificing a few style points will be worth it.
One of the best forms of prevention you can put in place, especially if you are currently able-bodied, is to exercise regularly. Regular exercise will help you maintain strength and physical coordination as you age, which can help keep you upright in those instances where you trip, slip, or find yourself a little off-balance.
Physical therapists can help you work on static and dynamic balance drills with you. Your sense of balance relies on input from:
Your proprioception (the sense of the position of your body parts); and
Your vestibular (inner ear) input
As you age, one or all of these senses can diminish leading to instability in certain environments (like a dark room). Challenging these senses while in a safe environment like a PT session can help maintain their resilience and improve your balance. Think of it as preventative maintenance!