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Preventing falls

Alternative Names

Home safety; Safety in the home; Fall prevention

What to Expect at Home

People with medical problems are at risk of falling or tripping. This can result in broken bones or more serious injuries. Making changes in your home helps lower your risk of falling.

Home Setup

Have a bed that is low, so that your feet touch the floor when you sit on the edge of the bed.

Keep tripping hazards out of your home.

  • Remove loose wires or cords from areas you walk through to get from one room to another.
  • Remove loose throw rugs.
  • DO NOT keep small pets in your home.
  • Fix any uneven flooring in doorways.

Have good lighting.

Stay safe in the bathroom.

  • Put hand rails in the bathtub or shower and next to the toilet.
  • Place a slip-proof mat in the bathtub or shower.

Re-organize the home so things are easier to reach. Keep a cordless or cell phone with you so you have it when you need to make or receive calls.

Set up your home so that you do not have to climb steps.

  • Put your bed or bedroom on the first floor.
  • Have a bathroom or a portable commode on the same floor where you spend most of your day.

If you do not have a caregiver, ask your health care provider about having someone come to your home to check for safety problems.

Home Care

Weak muscles that make it more difficult to stand up or keep your balance are a common cause of falls. Balance problems can also cause falls.

When you walk, avoid sudden movements or changes in position. Wear shoes with low heels that fit well. Rubber soles can help keep you from slipping. Stay away from water or ice on sidewalks.

DO NOT stand on step ladders or chairs to reach things.

Ask your provider about medicines you may be taking that can make you dizzy. Your provider may be able to make some medicine changes that could reduce falls.

Ask your provider about a cane or walker. If you use a walker, attach a small basket to it to keep your phone and other important items in.

Exercise to Help Build Your Strength

When you stand up from a sitting position, go slowly. Hold on to something stable. If you are having problems getting up, ask your provider about seeing a physical therapist. The therapist can show you how to build your strength to make getting up easier.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider if you have fallen, or if you almost fall. Also call if your eyesight has worsened. Improving your vision will help reduce falls.

References

Dalbaere K, Sherrington C, Lord SR. Falls prevention interventions. In: Marchus R, Feldman D, Depmster DW, Luckey M, Cauley JA, eds. Osteoporosis. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2013:chap 70.

Rubenstein LZ, Dillard D. Falls. In: Ham RJ, Sloane PD, Warshaw GA, Potter JF, Flaherty E, eds. Ham's Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 20.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Draft Update Summary: Falls Prevention in Older Adults: Interventions. Updated July 2015. www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryDraft/falls-prevention-in-older-adults-interventions1. Accessed June 27, 2016.

Review Date:5/21/2016
Reviewed By:Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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