Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls: Advice for Seniors
Staying on your feet as you get older can become challenging. In fact, one in four older adults age 65 and older will experience a fall this year, and, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), falls are the leading cause of injury in this age group.
Although that statistic can be concerning, falling, fortunately, isn’t part of the normal aging process; there are things you can do to avoid injury. The first step is to identify your fall risk.
Are you at risk of falling?
Seniors who fall once are more likely to fall again, especially those who visit the emergency room. If you experience any of the following issues, you have a higher risk of falling:
- Weakness in the lower body
- Problems walking
- Balance issues
- Vision problems
If you take medication for anxiety or depression or to help you get to and stay asleep, you are also at a higher risk of falling.
If you’re unsure about your risk level, ask your doctor to do a fall risk assessment; they will ask questions about your medications, daily habits, household environment, and may even perform a rudimentary vision test. If they feel you’re at risk of falling, they might refer you to a physical therapist, adjust your medications, or send you for further tests.
If you’ve ever visited the emergency room because of a fall, it’s important to undergo a fall risk assessment to ensure you maintain your mobility and remain independent as you age.
Ways to prevent slips, trips, and falls
Whether you are at risk of falling or not, prevention is still essential. Here are a few ways to avoid the many obstacles that can get in your way throughout the day:
- Stay active
Strong legs and a sturdy core help you remain upright and balanced. Luckily, intense strength training is unnecessary; all you need to do is introduce daily low-impact exercises that improve balance, such as tai chi, gentle yoga, or daily walks.
- Remove hazards in the home
Your home might be more hazardous than you think. Does it have dim lighting in the hallways, exterior pathways, bedrooms, or bathrooms? Install bright LED lights to improve visibility.
Do you use throw rugs in the bathroom, kitchen, or entryways? Consider removing these items or using rug tape or a rug gripper to create a non-slip mat.
Bathrooms can be particularly perilous for seniors. Prevent bathroom falls by installing grab bars in the shower, the tub, and near the toilet. Even if your balance is good, it’s easy to slip getting in or out of the tub or shower.
- Schedule regular eye exams
Vision problems contribute to falling more often than you might realize. Eyesight tends to worsen with age, making it more challenging to see in the dark. The CDC recommends that seniors have their eyes dilated “once a year to reduce the risk of irreversible vision loss and update glasses if needed.”
- Review medication with your doctor
As mentioned above, medications can affect your mobility and balance. The side effects of some can increase your risk of taking a nasty fall. Speak with your doctor to find out if you can slowly wean to a different medication to decrease your risk.
- Wear good-fitting shoes
Improper footwear could also be putting you at risk. Flip-flops and slippers are comfortable and easy to take on and off, but they also increase the risk of tripping. Switch to footwear that fits snugly and has non-slip soles.
- Slow down
Walking hurriedly or getting up too fast can put you at risk of falling, so slow down and protect yourself from preventable spills! Slow and steady wins the race, after all.
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