6 simple ways to prevent falls

As the weather cools in the fall and with winter right around the corner it’s a great time to think about a different kind of fall – actually preventing older adults from falling down and getting hurt – either in their home or unfamiliar and slippery outside locations. 

Every 13 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a falls-related injury. Each year, millions of adults suffer falls that cause hip fractures or head trauma, both of which can increase the risk of early disability or death. 

Every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the death rate from falls among older adults has risen sharply in the last decade. 

Fast facts about falls

  • Half of adults age 80+ fall each year
  • Two-thirds of those who fall will do so again within six months
  • 35-40 percent of falls happen at home

Falls are common for many reasons as we age.

Weston Lindsay, a physical therapist with Intermountain Homecare has these suggestions to help older adults know if they’re at risk for falling and help reduce their risk

Five conditions that make people more at risk for falling

  1. Musculoskeletal weakness, pain, fatigue
  2. Neurological conditions (inner ear or balance problems, strokes, brain injuries, neuropathy, multiple sclerosis).
  3. Cardiovascular conditions (irregular blood pressure, congestive heart failure). 
  4. Metabolic conditions (diabetes, thyroid issues, certain medications).
  5. Psychological conditions (depression, anxiety, fear of falling).  

A homecare visit can assess the risk for falling in your home and recommend ways to reduce your risk.

There are several tests that can be performed in the home that help determine the likelihood of a fall. Intermountain Homecare caregivers can evaluate your home and recommend things that can be done to improve safety.

Six simple ways to reduce your risk for falling

  1. Remove throw rugs, electrical cords, shoes, clothes, toys, etc. from walkable areas.
  2. Be aware of raised thresholds and step-down entrances.
  3. Use hand-railings or grab bars especially near steps, stairs or in the bathroom.
  4. Wear tennis shoes or sneakers with non-slip soles.
  5. Don’t wear flip flops, sandals, slippers or shoes with an open heel.
  6. Keep fluids on tile or wood floors wiped up.

Use the nose and toes principle

When you’re walking, your body is designed to have your nose and toes face the same direction and be parallel. That helps all three balance centers communicate with the brain and reduce your risk of falling.

Physical therapists can help teach you exercises to improve balance, strength, and endurance, which can reduce fall risk.

Types of equipment that can be used or installed to reduce falls

  • Grab bars near steps or in bathroom 
  • Hand railings on both sides of stairs. 
  • Non-slip rubber mats in shower or tub or a shower chair.
  • Canes, crutches, and walkers can help reduce fall risk. 

Physical therapists can help train you to use equipment safely. 

How can people arrange for a fall risk assessment?

A fall risk assessment can be arranged by contacting your physician and having them write a prescription or referral for one. Then contact Homecare with the referral and they can set up a time to come and visit.

Does Medicare or other insurance cover the visit?

Insurance will typically cover the cost of visits if you meet some basic criteria.  Medicare, for example, requires that you have a physician referral and you’re homebound. Check with your insurance provider to see what will be covered. It depends on whether the insurance provider deems the visit or equipment as medically necessary.

Fall prevention classes are available

Intermountain Healthcare offers a fall prevention class called “Stepping On” at Riverton Hospital and the Utah Valley LiVe Well Center.