By Holly McCaulley, RN, BSN; Holly Riley, RN, BSN; Leslie Willard, RN

Falls are the most common cause of injury and death among people 65 years and older. In 2015, the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center saw 1,260 patients who sustained a fall. Of those patients, 624 were over 65 years of age.

Identifying hazards in the home and taking simple steps to correct them may prevent unforeseen injuries.

Who is at risk for falling?
The risk increases with age. Each year, falls occur in about one-third of people 75 years of age or older who are living in their homes. This increased risk of falling may be the result of changes that come with aging plus other medical conditions, such as arthritis, cataracts, or hip surgery. The risk of injury also increases with changes in vision, hearing, muscle tone, and reflexes; alcohol consumption; or medication side effects.

What can I do to decrease my risk of falling?

  • Make sure that you have good lighting in your home. As your eyes age, less light reaches the back of the eyes where your vision is located. The lighting in your home must be bright, so you can avoid tripping over objects that are not easy to see. You should put night lights in your bedroom, hall, and bathroom. Frosted bulbs reduce glare.
  • Electrical cords should not be lying on the floor in walking areas.
  • Rugs should be firmly fastened to the floor or have nonskid backing. Loose ends should be tacked down.
  • Put hand rails in your bathroom for bath, shower, and toilet areas.
  • Use bath mats or non-slip decals in tubs/showers.
  • Have rails on both sides of stairs for support. Be sure the stairs are well lit.
  • Make sure items are within easy reach. Store items, so you won’t need to bend or use a step ladder or stool.
  • Wear shoes with firm nonskid, non-friction soles. Avoid wearing loose-fitting slippers that could cause you to trip.
  • Wipe up spills quickly.
  • Watch out for slippery or uneven floors and doorways.

What else can I do to prevent falls?

  • See your eye doctor once a year. Cataracts and other eye diseases can cause you to fall if you don’t see well.
  • Take good care of your feet. If you have pain in your feet or if your have large, thick nails and corns, you should have your doctor look at your feet.
  • Talk to your doctor about any side effects you may have with your medications.  Problems caused by side effects from medicine are a common cause of falls. 
  • See your doctor if you have dizzy spells.
  • If your doctor suggests that you use a cane or walker, please use it. This will give you extra stability when walking and will help you avoid a bad fall.
  • The key to getting out of bed is to sit on the side of the bed for a few minutes before standing up. Your blood pressure takes some time to adjust when you first sit up.

The Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center provides injury prevention outreach programs to senior centers throughout our region. This information is provided in collaboration with the Society of Trauma Nurses SLIP (Senior Lifestyles & Injury Prevention) program.

Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE