Preventing Falls at Home for Older Adults Using Today’s Technology and Products

The healthiest person can still experience a fall by pure accident or due to poor choices.

That being said, for the elderly it is not a matter of “if” they fall….it’s “when” they fall.

Reduced vision, decreased cognition, unstable standing balance, and generalized weakness/fatigue are just a few of the many fall-related factors that older adults experience simply due to the aging process.

Thanks to available medical technology and equipment, ground-level falls at home can be minimized.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Cane - For mild standing balance weakness, a single-point cane or a quad cane could provide enough external support to prevent loss of balance.

Some older adults may handle indoor surfaces well enough without a cane, but reserve the option for outdoor use in order to scale rougher surfaces.

Persons who are thinking about incorporating a cane need to be able to weight-bear comfortably through both feet and have complete functional use of at least one arm.

2. Walkers/Rollators - If a cane is not good enough and the user is still experiencing a loss of balance, it may be time to upgrade to a walker.

For standard walker use, the older adults needs two functioning arms and needs to be able to comfortably weight-bear through at least one foot.

A walker provides more support for people who struggle standing up straight while walking. For individuals who fatigue easily, rollators come with a seat for periodic rest breaks.

3. Grab Bars - Installing grab bars is a great method for preventing an older adult from stabilizing on shaky objects like towel racks, oven doors, door knobs, top-heavy furniture, and wheeled chairs.

Grab bars could be placed just about anywhere in the house, but priority rooms should include the bathroom, the kitchen, and the bedroom.

Older adults conduct a lot of movement and transfers in all three rooms (getting out of bed, sitting on the toilet, climbing into the shower, getting dressed, etc.) over slippery surfaces, thus cultivating some major fall zones in the house.

4. Non-Slip Mats - Floor mats that provide some friction in connection to the floor and the bottom of the feet are helpful when placed on slippery bathroom floors and tiled/wooden floored living rooms and kitchen areas.

The mats need to be thin and well-adhered to the floor in order to prevent tripping or catching on the feet.

5. Seat Risers - Risers on the toilet or on dinner chairs  help prevent “partial” falls. If the older adult has leg weakness (specifically in the quadriceps and hamstrings), a successful sit-to-stand transfer can turn into a lowering move to the floor.

A riser provides compensation for weakness, meaning that the individual doesn’t have to recruit as much muscle power to stand or sit.

6. Non-Slip Socks - Hospitals regularly hand out non-slip socks to fall-risk patients, but older adults are welcome to purchase the same socks for home use.

The bottom of the sock is lined with a rubber, friction-friendly material that prevents the wearer from slipping on smooth surfaces like tile, wood, linoleum, and cellar cement.

7. Bed Rails - Bed rails serve a similar purpose as seat risers in that, if properly used, assist a person getting in and out of bed by reducing muscle power to stand up or sit down.

An incomplete transfer could mean sliding off of the bed and onto the floor. Low-priced high quality bed rails can be located just about anywhere online, and the installation features are a frugal option over getting an expensive hospital bed.

8. Stair-Lifts - It’s a common fall prevention technique to avoid the stairways in a house. Unfortunately, some older adults don’t have that option in split-level homes, residences with steps up to the entryway, or houses where stairs must be scaled to get to the essential rooms (kitchen and bathroom).

Installation and parts can be expensive, but placing a stair-lift in the house could completely eliminate dangerous tumbles on stairways all-together.

9. Threshold Covers - Small door or room thresholds could be a huge tripping hazard for older adults who struggle with lifting their feet high enough to clear low-flying obstacles. Threshold covers or wedges can minimize the height.