When your parent(s) begin to age, a major concern about their health is the possibility of a dangerous slip or fall in their home. One in three adults over 65 falls each year, and the resulting health problems can range in severity from minor scrapes and bruises to hip fractures or head trauma. Luckily, slips and falls are largely preventable. Here are a few tips on how to prevent falls in aging adults.
Encourage your aging parents to exercise regularly. The exercise does not have to be strenuous, but fitness activities that focus on improving leg strength and balance are helpful for aging adults. Walking, water workouts, and tai chi all utilize slow, graceful movements to improve strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility. A doctor can help recommend an exercise program or set your aging adult up with a licensed physical therapist for a custom exercise program.
Buy your aging parents sensible shoes. Suggest that your parents avoid high heels, floppy slippers, and slick-soled shoes that may increase the likelihood of a stumble. Instead, for birthdays and holidays, give your parents well-fitting, reliable shoes with non-skid soles that help maintain traction.
Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medications. Certain medications (such as sedatives and some kinds of antidepressants) may have side effects that increase the risk of falling, such as dizziness or drowsiness. A doctor can help review medications for these possible interactions and advise you and your parents on all options.
Ensure that your aging parent gets his or her eyes checked by an eye doctor annually. Eyeglasses or contacts prescriptions should be updated to optimize your parents’ vision. It may be helpful to get a pair of glasses with single vision distance lenses for seeing clearly in the distance or for reading objects up close.
Install home access products that help reduce falling and slipping hazards. There are many affordable, easy-to-install options to help keep your parents’ home safe for walking. Some of these assistive devices and home access products include handrails for stairs, nonslip treads for wooden steps, a toilet lift, grab bars and nonslip mats for the shower or tub, and a bath lift (for more information on the benefits of installing a bathtub lift, read our previous blog post here).
Remove hazardous materials from your parents’ home. Examples of such materials include clutter on the floor, loose rugs (which can be secured with double-stick tape) or floorboards, and electrical cords in high-traffic areas on the floor. You can also modify your parents’ home by storing clothing, dishes, food, and other important items within easy reach and immediately cleaning any spilled liquids, grease, or food.
Improve the lighting. Lighting up your parents’ home will help them avoid tripping on items that are difficult to see. Night lights can be placed in the bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways, and lamps should be within reach of the bed for getting up in the middle of the night. Light switches should also be near stairs, and flashlights should be stored in easy-to-find places in case the power goes out.
Although slips and falls are hazardous to aging adults, with a little preparation and a few simple home modifications, you can help keep your parents safe by preventing falls in your parents’ home. For more information, please call us, and we’ll answer any of your questions.