7 Ways to Prevent Falls in the Home
Falls are a common problem for older people, especially those with arthritis or other conditions that affect their balance, mobility and strength. According to the NHS, around 1 in 3 adults over 65 and half of people over 80 will have at least one fall a year.
If you live with joint pain, you know how important it is to take care of your joints and avoid any unnecessary strain or injury. Falling when you are already living with chronic pain can obviously make things worse, causing extra pain, swelling, bruising or even fractures. That’s why it’s important to prevent falls where possible. Most falls happen in the home, so it’s a good idea to make your home as fall-proof as possible.
Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling and protect your joints from harm. We spoke to certified registered nurse, anaesthetist, and personal trainer Stewart Parnacott to find out more.
1. Clean up clutter
The easiest way to prevent falls is to keep your home neat and tidy. Remove unnecessary clutter, especially from the hallways and stairs, and make sure there are no loose wires or cords that could trip you up. Store items that you use often in easy-to-reach places to avoid bending, stretching or climbing to get them.
“Maintain a safe home environment,” says Panacott. “Remove tripping hazards, install handrails in bathrooms and staircases, and ensure proper lighting. Keep floors clutter-free. Remove loose rugs, cords, and any obstacles that may cause tripping.”
2. Repair or remove tripping hazards
Sometimes home fixtures can contribute to falls. Check your floors for any loose tiles, boards or carpets that could cause you to slip or stumble. Fix any broken or uneven steps on your stairs or outside your door. “Be mindful of wet surfaces,” says Panacott. “Use non-slip mats in the bathroom and be cautious on wet floors.”
3. Use assistive devices
“Falls are more prevalent in individuals with arthritis due to joint pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility, which can affect balance and coordination,” says Panacott. “The pain and inflammation associated with arthritis may lead to altered gait patterns, increasing the risk of stumbling or tripping. Additionally, muscle weakness and reduced muscle mass due to inactivity can further compromise balance, making falls more dangerous as older adults may be more susceptible to fractures and injuries.”
Having something to hold on to can make a big difference when it comes to preventing falls. Here are some assistive devices which can be beneficial when you have arthritis:
- Install grab bars in your bathroom, near your toilet, shower and bathtub, to help you get in and out safely.
- Put handrails on both sides of your stairs and along your hallways to give you extra support and stability.
- Cane or Walker: Provides support and stability while walking.
- Raised Toilet Seat: Makes getting on and off the toilet easier.
- Shower Chair: Allows for safe seated bathing.
4. Avoid wearing loose clothing
Wearing loose-fitting, trailing clothes that might trip you up is not a good idea if you want to prevent falls. Choose clothes that fit well and do not drag on the floor. Wear shoes that are comfortable, supportive and have good grip. “Wear appropriate footwear,” says Panacott. “Opt for supportive, non-slip shoes with good cushioning to improve stability.” Avoid wearing socks or slippers that could make you slide on smooth surfaces.
5. Light it right
Poor lighting can make it hard to see potential hazards and increase your risk of falling. Make sure all rooms, passages and staircases are well lit and have switches at both ends. Use night lights or motion sensor lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallway to help you see where you are going when you get up at night. “Use adequate lighting,” says Panacott. “Ensure all areas are well-lit to see potential hazards clearly.”
Exercising can improve balance, strength and mobility which can make you less likely to fall - and more likely to spring back up again if you do!
“Engage in low-impact activities that improve strength, flexibility, and balance, such as Tai Chi or gentle yoga,” says Panacott. “Targeted exercises can improve strength and balance, reducing the risk of falls. Try exercises like:
- Heel-to-toe walking. Walk in a straight line, placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other.
- Single-leg stands. Stand on one leg for 30 seconds, then switch to the other.
- Leg raises. Hold onto a stable surface and lift one leg to the side, front, and back.
- Sit-to-stand. Practice rising from a chair without using your hands for support.”
7. Live on one level
You don’t always have much choice over where you live, and we’re not suggesting you move from your stable home! That being said, living on one level (so not having to go up and down stairs in your home) can make your life easier and help you avoid falls. You can also install a lift or a sturdy bannister to help you get up and down. If you have to use stairs, take them slowly and carefully, holding on to the handrails and using a stairlift if you have one.
If you have any questions or concerns about preventing falls or managing joint pain, talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice. Do you have any tips for preventing falls? Let us know on Facebook.