“Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”

It’s more than a memorable line in a commercial; it’s also a fear for many people as they reach their retirement years.

Serious injuries can occur when a person falls, no matter how old he or she is.

A toddler tumbles down the stairs. A teenager loses his balance while rollerblading. A mother-of-three slips on the ice. These falls can result in broken arms, broken legs, pulled ligaments, and concussions. More than 8,000 children visit emergency rooms every day as a result of a fall-related injury.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are dangerous for the elderly.

  • Approximately 72 people over the age of 65 die every day due to fall-related injuries.
  • Daily, more than 6,600 adults over the age of 65 are treated for fall-related injuries in the United States.

The CDC estimates one in five falls results in a serious injury.

Prevention is the best way to decrease the risk of falling injuries

A home safety check can eliminate some of the most common falling hazards? Maybe you have thought of some of these; others may help you prevent a fall in your home this year.

  • Your throw rug may be a tripping hazard. Does each rug have a non-skid backing that grips the floor? If not, it might be time to get rid of your rug, replace it with a non-skid rug, or use strong, double-faced tape to affix it to the floor.
  • Be aware of wet floors. Be careful as you walk in from outside. Water, ice or snow on a smooth concrete or tile floor is very slippery.
  • Be careful when walking across a wet parking lot. In addition to looking out for cars, be conscious of the painted lines. When wet, the paint is slick and can cause a fall.
  • Install grab bars and non-skid mats in bathing or showering areas.
  • If you have small children in the house, make sure safety guards have been installed on second-story windows. You may also want to install guards on any doors that open to hazardous areas.
  • Make sure your rooms are well lit. Can you turn the lights on before entering a room? If not, you may want to consider using a nightlight or alternate light source to light your way as you cross the room to turn on the lamp.
  • Invest in a pair of house shoes with non-skid soles. When you walk in stocking feet, bare feet, and smooth-soled slippers, your risk of falling is higher. Purchasing a dedicated pair of house shoes will keep your floors clean and give you traction.

We would be remiss if we didn’t take a few moments to focus on safety as you walk up and down the stairs. 

  • If you have small children in or visiting your house, invest in a childproof gate to prevent children from falling down the stairs.
  • Make sure that each stairway, landing, and deck has proper handrails and spindles. These are useful for maintaining balance and avoiding injury.
  • If the stairs are carpeted, make sure all edges are secure. Loose ends can catch a toe.
  • Is the stairwell lit well? As people get older, they need brighter light to see clearly. If you have a dark stairway, it may be worth the investment to install a light over the steps. Walking downstairs in the dark can be dangerous.
  • Have a plan for carrying laundry or other heavy items up and down the stairs. When you carry laundry baskets, suitcases, children, or other heavy objects, they can interfere with your balance. One misstep can cause a major mishap.
  • If you have animals, make sure they are off the stairs before you start your climb or descent. Many injuries occur when people try to step over or around a pet lying on a step.
  • Don’t multitask when you are walking up or down the stairs. One miscalculation can end with a miserable injury.

Checking your physical environment is only part of a fall-prevention program. You also need to assess your body’s physical abilities and limitations.

Take a self-assessment

  • Are you on medications that can make you dizzy or sluggish? If you don’t know, you can call your pharmacist and ask about the side effects of the medication you have been prescribed. You will also want to ask if dizziness or sleepiness can occur if you combine any of your medications or supplements.
  • How’s your vision? Changes in vision have a profound impact on our health and safety. If you can’t see a hazard on the step, you cannot avoid it. If you’ve not been to the eye doctor recently, you should make an appointment to get your vision checked.
  • Are you taking vitamin D and calcium? Maintaining strong bones can help prevent a broken bone if you do fall.
  • Are you exercising and active? Staying active and building lower body strength helps your balance. Better balance decreases your risk of falling.
  • Is walking painful? If so, you may want to consider using an assistive device such as a cane or walker. It will help you balance. As you move and become more active, you will get stronger. You may need the cane less frequently.
  • Have you fallen recently? If you lose your balance or find yourself falling more often, tell your healthcare provider. You may have a medical reason for your loss of balance.
  • Are you afraid of falling? Sometimes, people who have fallen become afraid of falling again. To prevent falling, they often become inactive. This starts a dangerous cycle. Being inactive weakens muscles. People who have weak muscles are at an increased risk of falling. If you are afraid of falling, ask your healthcare provider for suggestions.

With a little thought and planning, most falls can be avoided.

If you do fall, Bone & Joint Walk-in Care can help you get back on your feet.