With the addition of snow and ice under our feet, the fear of falling heightens for many. However, Mother Nature is not the only culprit when it comes to falls. Many falls happen in the home, where you may think you are most safe.
Fortunately, there are ways to make your home a safer place with a few easy adjustments, according to RiverView Health’s Coordinator of Physical Therapy Lindsey Ebertowski, DPT.
“Before the snow even fell, we were seeing a higher number of falls taking place throughout the community,’’ Ebertowski shared. “I think it’s due to the lack of exercise with more people being homebound and getting deconditioned.’’
RiverView’s Physical Therapy Team can help with any mobility issues you or a loved one might be experiencing.
“There are actions you can take today, and as you age, to help keep you safe and independent tomorrow,’’ she stated. “Make a plan today. Stay independent tomorrow.’’
Ebertowski suggests the following:
- Get a physical checkup each year. Some health issues may increase your risk of falling (such as leg weakness and balance problems).
- Get a medical eye exam each year. Eye problems can increase your risk of falling or being in a car crash.
- Review all your medicines with a doctor or pharmacist. Certain medicines can have side effects that can change your ability to drive, walk, or get around safely.
- Follow a regular activity program to increase your strength and balance. Strength and balance activities, done at least three times a week, can reduce your risk of falling. Other activities, like walking, are good for you but don’t help prevent falls.
Check the floors in each room in your home and reduce tripping hazards:
- Keep objects off the floor.
- Remove or tape down rugs.
- Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall and out of the way.
Check the kitchen:
- Put often-used items within easy reach (about waist level).
- For items not within easy reach, always use a step stool and never use a chair.
Check the bedrooms:
- Use bright light bulbs.
- Place lamps close to the bed where they are within reach.
- Put in night-lights to be able to see a path in the dark. For areas that don’t have electrical outlets, consider battery-operated lights.
Check inside and outside stairs and steps:
- Check for loose or uneven steps. Repair if needed.
- Make sure carpet is firmly attached to every step, or remove carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads.
- Check for loose or broken handrails. Repair if needed. Consider installing handrails on both sides of the stairs.
- Use bright overhead lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Consider putting light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs.
Check the bathrooms:
- Put non-slip rubber mats or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower.
- Consider installing grab bars for support getting in or out of the tub or shower, and up from the toilet.
Falls are also more likely when wearing inappropriate footwear, such as flip-flops that don’t cover the heel. Wear safe shoes that fit well, have a firm heel to provide stability, and have a textured sole to prevent slipping.
“Falls and a fear of falling can diminish your ability to lead a full and independent life,’’ Ebertowski stated. “Although one in every four older adults falls each year, falling is not a part of normal aging. You have the power to reduce your risk of falls.’’
Ebertowski and RiverView’s Physical Therapy Team are movement experts who improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. If you worry about falls, have had a fall, or have experienced a loss of balance, talk to your primary care provider about having a physical therapy evaluation. For more information, call RiverView’s Rehab Services at 218.281.9463.