10 Ways to Prevent Falls at Home
Home, safe home
Ah yes, home. The place where you can chill out, relax, unwind—you name it.
But your home can be more hazardous than you think. Nearly 8 million people are injured in falls every year, either in or outside the home, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
An injury-producing fall can happen at any age—falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in people ages 25 to 54.
Make a few smart changes to ensure your home is the relaxing, comfy, and safe abode it should be.
Spot your pets
Sure, they’re cute. You love them. But your dog or cat may be one of the bigger household hazards when it comes to falls.
Pets are responsible for more than 86,000 fall-related injuries each year, according to the CDC. Pet-related falls are more common in women, people under 15, and in people ages 35 to 54.
But that doesn’t mean you have to lead a pet-free existence. Obedience training for your pooch can help. (Dogs are more likely to cause a fall than cats.)
Also watch for pet dishes and toys, which are tripping hazards.
Find your inner balance
Anyone can trip, but if you’re steady on your feet you may be much less likely to injury yourself.
It can help to have an exercise routine that improves your balance and leg strength. The most important aspect of the routine is that you do it standing up, says Judy Stevens, MD, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
For example, try activities like tai chi to improve balance and strengthen your gams.
Read the Rx label
The more medicines you take, the greater the chance that some of them might have side effects or combine in a way that makes you feel dizzy or off-kilter.
The risk goes up if the drugs affect your mind, such as sleeping pills, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.
But check the label. Even drugs that you’d never suspect—such as prescription inflammation-fighting corticosteroids—can cause dizziness.
"It’s really important for people to check with their pharmacist or primary care physician to make sure that the dose is right and that there are no potential interactions," Dr. Stevens says.
Shed some light
Sure it’s nice to cut your energy bill by dimming or turning off some lights. But don’t take it so far that your home is a hazard.
Use bright bulbs when and where you need them. You can still save electricity by selecting compact fluorescent light bulbs, which are more energy efficient and last longer than conventional incandescent lights.
The most important spots to light up? At the top and bottom of stairs and the entryway of rooms. Make sure you don’t have to walk across a dark room to turn on a lamp.
Get a helping hand
No matter how lithe you feel, an extra rail or grab bar and nonslip rubber mat both inside and outside your shower are good ideas. Only one misplaced step on wet, traction-free tiles can result in a wipeout.
Make sure the handrails and grab bars can support your weight if you do lean on them. To ensure that they’re securely installed, it’s not a bad idea to pay an expert.
When you’re climbing the stairs, keep one hand on the railing, even if you don’t feel like you really need it. Another good idea? Have a second railing installed on the other side of the stairs for a double handgrip.
Check your eyes
You can turn on every light in the house, but if your eyeglass prescription is outdated, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Make sure your eye prescription is current and don’t take off your glasses or remove your contacts as soon as you hit the front door.
Another common risk is to walk around the house in progressives—the type of glasses that magnify close vision for reading by having a slightly different Rx at the bottom of the lens. This type of lens can make it harder for you to notice contrast and depth, particularly when you’re climbing stairs.
Roll up the rugs
You might think rugs are safe because they offer some cushion if you fall, but statistics suggest they’re more likely to cause a fall in the first place.
Getting rid of rugs, especially small throw rugs that can easily bunch up and trip you, can help.
At the very least, put double-sided tape under smaller rugs to keep them from sliding.
Socks and hardwood floors are a great combination for a fun slip-and-slide, but that lack of traction is exactly what you don’t want.
Going barefoot gives you a bit more resistance, but you could still cut your foot or stub a toe, which could trigger a fall.
The best option is to slide your tootsies into comfy slippers or shoes that have a rubber or other type of ground-gripping sole.
Clear the clutter
You don’t have to be a chronic hoarder to have too much stuff in your home.
Many home hazards—from cutting your foot on a child’s toy to tripping on a throw rug—can be eliminated by breaking free from clutter.
Do you really need that table busting at the seams with odds and ends?
Storing items that you don’t use regularly will leave more room to keep the bare essentials at arm’s length.
Watch your drinking
Although a glass of wine may be part of your end-of-day relaxation routine, keep in mind that excess alcohol intake can increase your risk of a fall.
Long-term excessive alcohol intake can cause peripheral neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that causes tingling and numbness in the fingers and feet—which can also increase the risk of stumbling or losing your footing.
Mixing alcohol with some types of drugs—such as benzodiazepines—is a well-known risk factor for injury-causing falls.