Preventing Slips and Falls in the Elderly

Posted on February 7, 2012

Dangers around the home caused as many as 20,000 unintentional deaths per year between 1992 and 1999, 21 million injuries between 1997 and 2000, and 10 million emergency department trips in the U.S. each year, according to the Home Safety Council. And falls are the most common fatal injury in the home — especially among the elderly.

There are numerous safety measures you can take to prevent slips and falls in your home:

  • Stairways should have handrails on both sides.
  • Attach safety treads to steps.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as throw rugs, furniture, and clutter from walkways.
  • Use self-adhesive non-skid mats or safety treads in bathtubs, showers, and pools.
  • Use non-skid rugs on bathroom floors.
  • Use non-skid pads under rugs on bare floors.
  • Install grab bars on both sides of toilets and bathtubs, especially on those used by seniors.
  • Keep steps free of objects and clutter.

Falls are especially dangerous for the elderly. The CDC says more than one-third of adults 65 and older fall each year. And the consequences are great: Seniors suffer 360,00-480,000 fall-related fractures each year; in 2005, more than 15,800 people 65 and older died from fall-related injuries.

Researchers say the risks of seniors falling are greater if they have lower body weakness, problems with walking and balance, or are taking four or more medications. To reduce their risk, elderly people should get regular exercise to increase their lower body strength and improve balance. And their doctor or pharmacist should review and revise, if necessary, their medications to reduce side effects and interactions.

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