Handle With Care: A Checklist to Help Older Adults Reduce Falls Risk
Reduce Risk of Accidental Injury in the Home!
The risk of falling increases with age. Among older adults, falls cause the most fractures, hospital trauma admissions and injury-related deaths (National Institutes of Health, n.d.). Falls can result in major medical expenses, including trips to the emergency room, extended hospital stays or long-term care. For example, the average cost of hospital care resulting from a fall is $17,086.
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009)
Falls can also lower quality of life. For example, a fall might result in a fractured hip. A fractured hip will greatly reduce mobility.
Falls Can Cause Health Problems
Many older adults who fall down are unable able to get back up. Staying on the floor for a few hours after a fall can result in minor injury or acute illness. For example, an older adult who has fallen may suffer from dehydration and lowered body temperature (Merck and Co., 2014).
Many falls result in injury (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). Some falls require a visit to the emergency room, hospital stay or entry into a nursing home. Injuries can include:
- Scrapes, cuts and bruising: Face, arms, legs or buttocks
- Fractures: Hip/pelvis, ribs, spine, leg, ankle, forearm/upper arm and hand(s)
- Head injury: Concussion and traumatic brain injuries
People who have fallen are sometimes fearful of falling again. Nearly half of these older adults avoid normal everyday activities, such as walking and cleaning (Merck and Co., 2014). Limited movement can lead to stiff joints, weak muscles and poor balance. As a result, the risk of falling increases.
Some Physical Activity Helps Prevent Falls
Exercise prevents falls. Older adults should have two hours and 30 minutes of exercise each week (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). This can improve balance and strength. Some things to do include:
- Standing on one leg
- Going from seated to standing sitting several times in a row
- Using resistance bands to improve arm and leg strength
- Participating in yoga or Tai Chi classes
The National Institute on Aging (2014) provides exercises that can easily be done at home. Always consult your physician before starting any moderate to vigorous exercise routine.
No-Cost Steps to Reduce Falls Risk
Make your home safer in a few easy steps!
Your home environment plays an important role in your health, safety and welfare. Consider asking a family member or friend to help assess your home for safety. There are many no-cost and/or low-cost steps that you can take to lower the risk of falling at home. Remember… You can help control your home environment to prevent falls!
Clutter and furnishings inside your home can make you trip and fall. Too much stuff? Do you have to navigate around furniture? Are your closets bursting with items that topple out when you open the door? If yes, the contents of your home interfere with your well-being. Getting rid of belongings can be hard. Have a friend help you, if possible. Reducing clutter can reduce risks of a fall.
The areas outside of your home affect your well-being and can prevent safe entry. Do you have broken, splintered, or rotting stairs? Are the stairs nice and straight or uneven? Do your railings wobble when you grab them? Consider the walkways, paths and steps leading to your home. A safe entryway can reduce falls risk. Get help with the following, if you can’t do it yourself.
Older adults need more lighting. Do you have shadowy staircases? Do you navigate down a dark hall to get from the bedroom to the bathroom? Is the entrance to your home dark at night? If yes, the lighting in your home affects your well-being. Consider the lighting both inside and outside of your home. Good lighting in key locations can reduce risks of a fall.
Clothes and shoes that do not fit can get tangled, stepped on or caught on furnishings can make you lose your balance, resulting in a fall. Do your pants sweep the floor? Are your shoes too tight or loose on your feet? Do your sleeves dangle over the stove as you are cooking? If yes, then your clothes affect your well-being. Make sure clothing and shoes fit well and are properly styled to avoid catching. Properly fitting clothing and shoes can reduce risks of a fall.
The way in which you perform daily activities can help or hinder you. Do you carry too much stuff, feel unbalanced while walking or rush from place to place? Do you use a device to help you move around, and if so, do you leave it in the closet? Consider your safety as you go about your activities. Best practices can help you reduce risks of a fall.
For information on free home safety and repair services, contact the Oklahoma State Division of Aging by dialing 211. You’ll be connected to your local Area Agency on Aging.
Lani Vasconcellos, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
Sonya McDaniel, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
Connie Johnson, Consumer, member Oklahoma Home and Community Education (OHCE)
Greg Sanders, North Dakota State University
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Facts: Preventing falls among older adults. Retrieved August, 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Falls among older adults: An overview. Retrieved February, 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). How much physical activity do older adults need? Retrieved February, 2015.
Merck and Co., I. (2014). Falls in the elderly. Retrieved February, 2015, from
National Institute on Aging. (2014). Exercise & physical activity. Retrieved March, 2015.
National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Falls and older adults. Retrieved February, 2015.
Assistant Professor & Extension Housing and Consumer Specialist