The uncertainty of the past two years has caused a shift in priorities and preferences across society — in public spaces, educational institutions, workplaces, and most dramatically, in homes. Unsafe living conditions are most dangerous for retirees, and home health services are seeing more demand than ever.
Due to recent events, regulators are re-evaluating the safety standards in nursing homes — just as retirees are re-evaluating their plans to live in them. Facilities across the country have practiced distancing, screened employees, and provided personal protective equipment. It may not be enough.
More Americans are considering aging in place and living out their golden years in the comfort of their own homes. That freedom, however, comes with more responsibility — including preventing falls at home. One out of five falls in the U.S. causes a serious injury. Each year, three million people over the age of 65 are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. By preventing falls at home, you can avoid that fate and relieve a good amount of stress.
How Preventing Falls at Home May Extend Your Life
Falls can cause serious injuries, especially for people who take certain medicines (like blood thinners). But those injuries may not always be so obvious right after a fall, so you may decide not to get help from your healthcare provider. But for those aging in place, avoiding healthcare can be extremely risky. Preventing falls at home can help avoid injuries that are sometimes difficult to identify, but long to linger.
Avoid Hip Fractures by Preventing Falls at Home
What you may assume is just a minor sprain or a sore leg may be a torn ligament or even a fracture. Nearly half of the people who have hip fractures aren’t able to live independently anymore. According to Mayo Clinic, a hip fracture can potentially have life-threatening complications. The risk of hip fracture rises the older you get because bones tend to weaken with age (osteoporosis). Falling from a standing height is the most common cause of hip fractures, which often lead to more complex health issues.
If you’re not preventing falls at home, you may end up with a longer hospital stay — which everyone wants to avoid, especially these days. Hip-fracture-induced immobility can lead to complications like leg clots, lung blood clots, bedsores, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, muscle mass loss, increased risk of another fall, and sometimes death.
Even if they’re not injured when they fall, some people become so afraid of falling again that they refrain from activity — which weakens their muscles and offsets their balance, increasing their chances of yet another fall.
Avoid Head Injury by Preventing Falls at Home
Preventing falls at home can also help you avoid serious head injuries. Some people who fall and hit their heads initially experience just a mild headache — only to discover days later that they’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Serious traumatic brain injury, however, can cause bruising, torn tissues, bleeding, and other physical brain damage. These injuries can lead to all kinds of unpredictable short- and long-term complications. According to the CDC, unintentional falls are the second leading cause of TBI-related death.
In addition to head injuries, soft tissue injuries or minor fractures can cause significant functional impairment, pain, and distress. Left untreated, these “invisible” injuries can lead to chronic pain and may cause you to compensate by overusing and damaging another part of your body. They can also make it harder for you to get around, engage in everyday activities, and live on your own.
Look Out for These Symptoms
Even for people who are aware and vigilant about all their health-based and environmental risks, preventing falls at home may not always be possible. If you do slip and fall, call your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms:
- Nausea after falling
- Loss of balance
- Rapidly intensifying or sudden headaches
- Soft tissue damage
What Gets in Your Way of Preventing Falls at Home?
You may not even be aware that some of your household trappings and seemingly unrelated physical conditions may be increasing your risk of falling. Take note and try to resolve these potential pitfalls of preventing falls at home.
There are likely many hazards in your home that you may not recognize as such because you’re so used to them. Older carpeting and throw rugs with rolled-up edges are common hazards that have tripped thousands of people — get rid of them. Do the same with electric cords — tape them to the wall. Excess furniture that clutters your pathway between rooms can cause you to fall — clear it away. Dark hallways and passageways are prime falling locations — light them up.
Low Vitamin D Levels
Vitamin D can enhance your immune system in more than one way while you’re preventing falls at home. A study conducted by University of Chicago Medicine researchers found that maintaining higher than previously considered sufficient vitamin D levels can lower your risk of infection.
Low vitamin D levels also contribute to fragile bones, and according to U.S. Preventative Services, supplementing with vitamin D might help prevent falls in older adults — especially those who spend a lot of time indoors. Taking a daily supplement of 1,000 IU can help raise vitamin D levels to power your resistance to both infections and falls.
Some pharmaceuticals — like high blood pressure medication — cause side effects like dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness, drowsiness, and blurred or double vision. They can also make it difficult to think clearly. According to Better Health While Aging, taking more than four of these pharmaceuticals simultaneously increases your chance of falling:
- Psychotropics and antipsychotics
- Blood-pressure-lowering medications
- Sleeping pills and sedatives
- Anticonvulsants (epilepsy medication)
Your age, weight, gender, ethnicity, and general health will determine how severely affected you will be. Understanding the side effects of your medications and discontinuing those you no longer need can go a long way to preventing falls at home.
Our muscles weaken as we age, making daily activities just a bit more challenging every year. By exercising to strengthen your muscles just a little bit each day, you’ll be preventing falls at home because you’ll become strong enough to keep yourself balanced. Engaging in even light physical activity can help stave off the effects of aging.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, conditions like arthritis or other kinds of joint pain are linked to an increased risk of falling. One of the most important fall prevention tips is to attend regular checkups so your healthcare provider can diagnose and monitor these conditions.
Vision issues can make it more difficult to move safely across your house and property. Preventing falls at home may be more challenging for bifocal or varifocal lens-wearers who may have trouble walking down steps and curbs. Cataracts, glaucoma, and other vision issues linked to stroke or dementia can also increase the risk of falling.
Research published in the journal Nature reports that visual impairment leads to an increased risk of falls. Compromised vision makes it difficult to anticipate and spot slipping or tripping hazards. Changes in your depth perception and loss of ability to adjust to lighting changes quickly can also contribute to blurred vision and make preventing falls at home more difficult.
Our feet change as we grow older — they become wider and longer. The padding under the heel and the ball of the footwear off and arches become flatter and less flexible, while ankles and joints become stiffer. That’s why one in three people over the age of 65 has foot pain, stiffness, or aching feet — which makes preventing falls at home more challenging.
According to Elderly Fall Prevention, poorly fitted footwear, corns, calluses, bunions, ingrown nails, thick nails, and ulcerations can increase your risk of falling. These problems can also cause you to move less, weakening your muscles and balance. Diabetes-caused numbness in the feet can also prevent a person from fully sensing where their feet are on the floor.
According to the National Institutes of Health, people with dementia — impaired thinking, problem-solving, memory, and awareness — are at a higher risk of falling. That’s because dementia and confusion can affect a person’s ability to judge distances between objects and to identify risky situations.
Visiting your healthcare provider regularly and reporting unusual incidences of memory loss or confusion will go a long way toward preventing falls at home. Taking a walk every day and keeping your mind active and entertained can help stave off dementia while strengthening your muscles and boosting your balance.
How Preventing Falls at Home Can Help You Enjoy Aging in Place
Once you’ve decided to age in place, preventing falls at home will require making every room more age-friendly. With the right modifications, most living spaces can be made far safer — and more enjoyable, too.
Light Up Your Days and Nights
Adults over the age of 75 may require up to four times as much light as young adults in order to see as effectively. A well-lit home can also reduce feelings of anxiety and paranoia for those with dementia. Improving the lighting in your home is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to start preventing falls at home.
Replace all of your incandescent, halogen, and CFL bulbs for LED light bulbs — which burn for up to 50,000 hours. Even if you leave them on for 12 hours a day, these bulbs can last for a decade or more, so you won’t have to be climbing a ladder every few months to replace burnt-out bulbs.
Bolster Your Bathroom Safety
Bathrooms can be some of the most dangerous rooms in the home, as they’re full of hard and slippery surfaces. Level up your bathroom set-up by investing in:
- Non-slip floor tiles; keep the floor dry
- Grab bars for support in the shower (climbing in and out of a bathtub is too risky)
- Anti-slip surfacing in the shower
- Open and accessible shelving
- A slip-resistant rug adjacent to the bathtub for safe exit and entry
- A nightlight between the bedroom and bathroom
- Grab bars next to the toilet seat or a raised seat with armrests
- Transparent doors with pull handles instead of knobs
As we age, our ability to sense high temperatures can be muted, making us more likely to burn ourselves. So if your water tends to get scalding hot, adjust the settings now and keep yourself safe in the future.
Plan for Emergencies
Think about how you would handle an emergency that might occur in your home. Where will you keep your cell phone or emergency button system? If your caretakers are gone, do you have their number on auto-dial as well as the numbers to your doctor’s practice and local police station? Do you have landlines and flashlights in every room? Do you have hand and feet warmers should the furnace suddenly fail? Do you have a basement or closet where you can wait out storms or earthquakes? It’s critical to ensure that you can contact emergency services and act quickly in case of a crisis or accident.
Enable Your Favorite Activities
Once your rooms are aging-friendly, you can start safely and enjoyably moving between them with ease by investing in an activity chair. In the past two years, isolation has taken a huge emotional toll on those who are aging in place. Finding ways to enjoy living alone safely and productively is critical.
Preventing falls at home became easier for thousands of Americans once they invested in the Independence Chair™ which enables them to enjoy daily chores and their favorite activities with ease and confidence via these unique features:
- Two-Wheel Locking: Locking wheels create stability when you need to be stationary and peace of mind during your smooth exits and entries — the chair allows you to safely lock the wheels into place so it stays exactly where you want it.
- Seat Tilt and Adjustable Armrests: Adjust the angle to use it as a leaning post or standing chair. The adjustable armrests and backrest allow for nimble horizontal transfer, reducing your risk of falls while moving from a bed to a chair, from a chair to a wheelchair, or from a chair to a commode (pictograms illustrate which lever or knob accomplishes what you need).
- Easy Navigation: An easy-to-attach-or-remove foot brake, a fold-away foot ring, and a durable seat protector position you in a proper sitting posture, enabling you to easily foot-propel across your home.
- Height Adjustments: Manual adjustment utilizes a gas spring and lever to change the chair’s height, while the electric height adjustment features a battery-operated switch to raise or lower the chair with a 90° left and right swivel function.
- Sit-to-Stand Support: Four sturdy castors and a welded steel frame do not bend with age — they offer continuous support for users who can bear their own weight when making height adjustments or transferring in and out of beds, couches, and other chairs.
- Long-Lasting Battery: The Independence Chair™ by VELA operates on a 24-hour battery system that you can charge overnight when you’re not using it, removing the risk of tripping over loose cords. Batteries should last at 3-5 years, but users have reported longer battery life.
Make Preventing Falls at Home Much Easier
Hundreds of people have already started to enjoy their favorite activities again after investing in their quality, personalized freedom device — the Independence Chair™. Learn how much easier preventing falls at home can be when you remain active and engaged in your own Independence Chair™. Speak to a Quality of Life Specialist about your unique needs and preferences.