Fall is arriving, which means it’s time to open our hearts to pumpkin spice lattes and pull our favorite sweaters out of the closet. It’s also the perfect time to highlight one of the most common causes of emergency room visits throughout any season—falls around the house. Tripping and falling may seem like no big deal, but every day falls account for broken bones, sprains, bruises, and a wide range of orthopedic injuries that could keep you off your feet for weeks or even months. Falls can even lead to traumatic brain injuries or fatalities, so they aren’t a threat you should ignore.
Seniors are the most at-risk group for serious injuries resulting from falls, but anyone can benefit from implementing some fall-prevention guidelines around the house. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to avoid these all too common injuries.
Know Why Falls Happen
Falls are often preventable. Many fall-related injuries occur right at home, because it’s easy to forget about common tripping hazards like slippery floors, living room clutter, or loose rugs. Most falls are the result of tripping or slipping on physical obstacles. Taking precautions around the house will make it less likely that falls take place and many safeguards can also serve as a visual reminder to slow down and take your time when you’re going from one room to another.
Make Your Home Safer
Some simple changes around the house can make a big difference for preventing injuries. Use the following steps to make upgrades around your own house, and, if you have an elderly relative living on their own, help make these changes in their house as well:
• Add handrails and floor traction – Anywhere that slipping is more likely, a handrail can be helpful. Add a handle to assist in getting out of the shower or up from the toilet. Make sure all stairs are equipped with handrails as well. On the floors, reduce slipperiness by adding traction with no-slip runners in hallways, a non-skid bathmat in the shower, and carpet mats in the kitchen that are tacked down with non-slip backing.
• Install floor lighting – Low lighting can be responsible for falls during late night fridge runs or an early morning trip to the bathroom. To make walkways more visible, install motion sensor triggered lighting that points at the floor along the hallways and in your bedroom. This will allow you to see where you’re going without feeling blinded by overhead lights when you’ve just woken up.
• Keep it tidy – Any parent can attest that clutter is a major tripping hazard at home. Toys, clothes, backpacks, and anything else left on the floor can quickly cause a fall. Keep clutter to a minimum by adding plenty of shelving, storage bins, and clothing racks. You can also set house rules that everything has to be put away at certain times, so you can ensure a clear path to anywhere in the house.
• Maintain outdoor walkways – It’s not just indoor areas that pose a risk for falls. In fact, the cool temperatures of autumn may remind you that overnight frost and snow are on the way, which can mean slippery sidewalks. When pathways are icy, use salt or kitty litter for traction and walk on the grass, if possible. At all times of the year, make sure that landscaping is not overgrown and keep a clear path around your house with pavers, concrete, or gravel walkways.
Improve Your Balance
Maintaining your environment is great for fall prevention, but you can do even more by working on your balance. Particularly if you have osteoporosis or any muscular weakness or balance issues, you should work to build strength with some simple everyday exercises. For example, you can stand on your toes or on just one foot for one minute at a time, slowly working to increase your time and stay balanced with your eyes closed or without holding onto anything with your hand for added stability. Regular walks are also helpful for keeping up lower body and core strength, and weight lifting and yoga can help you tone up even more to keep you lighter on your feet.
If you suffer an injury from a fall at home, head to the ER right away. When you need quick answers from a physician or your injuries are minor but you still want to check in with a medical professional, MeMD can be there in an instant with our convenient online medical visits.