One of every three adults 65 and older will have a fall this year. Falls are the leading cause of death for older adults. Falls led to 2.3 million emergency room visits in 2010 for treatment of traumatic brain injuries and hip, arm, leg, and spinal fractures.
Falls cost $30 billion in direct medical costs according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the lasting impact may not be financial but a lingering fear of falling in the minds of those who have suffered a fall. These fears create a slippery slope of less activity, which leads to a greater risk of falling.
Grinnell Mutual recommends making your home a safer place to prevent falls for older adults. Stairs, bathrooms, lighting, and floors are all places you can make simple changes that will keep people safe.
"Take a walkthrough of the home occupied by an elderly person," said Larry Gallagher, director of loss control at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. "Look for potential hazards associated with trips and falls in all areas of the home."
In the bathroom
Poor leg strength is a contributing factor to falls for older adults. A bathroom can be full of obstacles that can lead to a slip, trip, or fall. Consider installing grab bars for showers, tubs, and toilets to help older adults with mobility and balance. Nonslip mats in tubs and showers can also help steady their steps.
Throughout your home
Many people have familiar traffic patterns through their home—just look where the carpet and floorboards are most worn. Are these paths free of books, boxes, shoes, throw rugs, and other clutter?
As you walk through you home, also take note of the lighting. Some older adults may have issues with their eyesight. Replacing lights with higher wattage CFL or LED bulbs may make it easier to see a tripping hazard before it causes an accident.
Also note where you store frequently used items. Do you need a stepstool or chair to reach an item in a closet or cabinet? Chairs and stools can be unstable and unguarded, increasing the risk for a fall. Consider storing items in places that are easier to access.
For more information
For information about preventing accidents in your home, visit Farm Talk on the Front Porch on grinnellmutual.com.