With winter at our doorstep and days being shorter, it is easy to see how the comfort of our home becomes so much more appealing. Reading, doing crafts, or simply sitting down and having a nice cup of coffee or cocoa sounds so much better than being bundled up and facing the elements outside your window. Slips and falls on slick and icy sidewalks skyrocket during the winter months, but did you know that more than 31 million hospital trips per year are related to accidents around the house? Falls rank high on the household accident list with injuries leading to stays in the hospital, long-term care facilities or worse.
Many people have a fear of falling as they get older, especially if they are also experiencing vision loss. The prospect of a fall potentially causing you to be unable to care for yourself is a frightening one, but you can take preventive measures to stay independent. Start your fall prevention plan by answering the following questions from the Mayo Clinic to see if you are at an increased risk:
- Have you fallen before? If the answer is “yes”, write down the circumstances when, where and how you fell so that you can discuss them with your healthcare provider. Your physician can order physical therapy or an occupational therapy evaluation to assess your strength, balance and home safety issues if needed.
- What medications are you taking? Make a list of prescription and over-the-counter medications you are taking. Review the list with your doctor to determine if side-effects may be increasing your risk of falling.
- Could your health conditions cause a fall? Changes in vision and hearing can affect your balance and thus increase your risk of falling. Discuss any conditions with your provider that could affect your senses.
A great tactic to decrease your fall risk is by staying active. Regular exercise improves muscle strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility. Walking, yoga, Pilates, and swimming are a great way to stay in shape and help you prevent falls. If you have medical conditions that limit or prohibit your ability to exercise, you should consult with your provider if a physical therapist can help you create a custom exercise program for you.
Other easy to implement steps to reduce your risk of falling include:
- Clear clutter: Remove items that could cause you to trip. Instead of placing items on the floor, put them in storage rooms, bins or closets.
- Rearrange frequently used items by making them more accessible: Store food items, dishes, clothes etc. in easy reach, so you don’t need a step stool to reach them.
- Remove small area rugs: If you don’t want to get rid of your rugs, place double-sided tape under the rugs to keep them from sliding.
- Safety-proof stairs: Install handrails on both sides of the staircase. Put non-slip strips on floors and steps. If the staircase area is poorly lit install additional lighting and have a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Light-it up: Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older you need brighter lights to see well. Use task lights to help you with daily activities like reading, writing and add additional lighting in hallways and outdoor walkways. Don’t forget to place nightlights in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways as well.
- Bathroom Safety: Place grab bars in your shower/ bathtub bathroom and place non-slip mats on the floor.
- Wear proper footwear: Walking around barefoot, with socks, slippers or high heels can result in a slippery situation. Reduce the risk of falling by wearing flat shoes with rubber soles.
Though not all falls can be prevented, it is important to take simple steps to keep your home free of tripping hazards. If low vision is affecting your daily activities, connect with us for more information on improving lighting around your home, simple and effective magnification devices, and other daily living aids.Sep 16, 2020