Equipping your home with certain devices and taking preventative steps to reduce fall risk in the home is a great way for older adults to protect themselves against many of the dangers associated with falls as they age in place. Whether you or a loved one is living at home, in an assisted living community or with a grown child, a fall risk assessment is a great place to begin evaluating a home for fall risks and equipping your dwelling with fall protection measures. Once a fall has occurred you or a loved one’s risk of falling doubles which is all the more reason to try to prevent the first fall.
It’s very important to take fall precaution measures seriously as falls are often accompanied by loss of independence, a reduction in mobility and general anxiety and fear around falling. The steps we’ve outlined below offer preventative tools and tactics for nipping potential falls in the bud.
Fall Risk Assessments
You can also visit physician for a physical exam. These assessments were developed by the CDC in an effort to help physicians better determine whether or not their patient is at risk of falling. During these fall risk screenings your doctor will ask you a series of questions and have you perform a number of physical tests that look specifically at strength, balance and gait.
Some of the questions a physician may ask during a fall risk assessment include the following:
- Are you worried about falling?
- Have you fallen in the past year?
- Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking?
It’s important to be honest with your physician about your fall history and any concerns that you may have when it comes to balance or mobility.
Some of the physical tests that you may be asked to perform include the following:
1: Timed Up-and-Go (Tug). This test checks your gait. You’ll start in a chair, stand up, and then walk for about 10 feet at your regular pace. Then you’ll sit down again. Your health care provider will check how long it takes you to do this. If it takes you 12 seconds or more, it may mean you are at higher risk for a fall.
2: 30-Second Chair Stand Test. This test checks strength and balance. You’ll sit in a chair with your arms crossed over your chest. When your provider says “go,” you’ll stand up and sit down again. You’ll repeat this for 30 seconds. Your provider will count how many times you can do this. A lower number may mean you are at higher risk for a fall. The specific number that indicates a risk depends on your age.
3: Four-Stage Balance Test. This test checks how well you can keep your balance. You’ll stand in four different positions, holding each one for 10 seconds. The positions will get harder as you go.
- Position 1: Stand with your feet side-by-side.
- Position 2: Move one foot halfway forward, so the instep is touching the big toe of your other foot.
- Position 3 Move one foot fully in front of the other, so the toes are touching the heel of your other foot.
- Position 4: Stand on one foot.
Invest In These Affordable Prevention Products
Not all the products listed below may be necessary in you or a loved one’s home, but these products have been highly rated and are affordable fall protection measures that will reduce fall risk in the home.
1: Grab Bars – These inexpensive devices are not only great for the bathroom but in areas where there are steps or where you may need extra help rising from a seated position. Coming in different sizes with texture options (for grip), grab bars are an inexpensive option for adding extra fall protection measures into the home.
2: Mobility Aids (canes, walkers, rollators) – Often your insurance company will cover the cost of a mobility aid and a simple device like a basic cane or quad cane can offer added peace of mind for you or a loved one while walking around the house.
3: Bathroom Safety Aids – From bath and shower mats to shower chairs and raised toilet seats, there are numerous bathroom safety aids on the market to choose from. These simple devices add another layer of protection from falls and are often inexpensive and very easy to install.
4: Reacher Grabber – These simple tools are affordable and great for reaching items in high and low places. They mitigate risks associated with having to bend over or stand on a device to reach something in the closet or on top of the fridge. A must-have device for all older adults!
Remove Hazards & Light Up Your Living Space
You may be surprised to discover how often tripping hazards in the home are overlooked. We become accustomed to our surroundings and it’s often best to have a fresh set of eyes to help you or a loved one determine what may or may not be a potential fall risk.
Common Tripping Hazards (often overlooked)
This list of common tripping hazards should be used when deciding what to remove, replace or rehome in your living areas.
-Uncovered cables from gadgets and lamps
-Wrinkled carpeting or unnecessary rugs
-Unrepaired cracks in the driveway
-Stacks of books or magazines
-Unstable end tables, coffee tables and chairs (remove the wobble)
-Uneven or out of code walking surfaces
Increasing the amount of light in you or a loved one’s living space is a simple and critical step in reducing fall risk. This could be as simple as choosing bulbs with increased wattage or adding an extra lamp or two in every room. If you have a bit more of a budget to utilize you may consider hiring an electrician to install can or recessed lighting in kitchens, bathrooms, hallways and staircases. Recessed lighting is a great option if you can afford to hire a professional as this type of lighting is cord-free.
In addition to making these changes in the home you should also consider talking to your physician about certain medications that can create dizziness or sleepiness. Exercise and proper footwear are also critical in reducing fall risk in and outside of the home. Check out our blog on reducing your risk of falling with exercise for exercise options for all ability levels.