Falls at home
Each year, thousands of older Americans fall at home. Many of them are seriously injured, and some are disabled. In 2002, more than 12,800 people over age 65 died and 1.6 million were treated in emergency departments because of falls.
Falls are often due to hazards that are easy to overlook but easy to fix. This checklist will help you find and fix those hazards in your home. The checklist asks about hazards found in each room of your home. For each hazard the checklist tells you how to fix the problem. At the end of the checklist you’ll find other tips for preventing falls.
Floors: Look at the floor in each room.
- Move furniture so that when you walk through a room you have a clear path.
- Remove throw rugs or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so that the rugs won’t slip.
- Always keep objects (shoes, books, towels, boxes, etc.) off the floor.
- Make sure that electrical cords and wires are next to the wall so you can’t trip over them. If needed, have an electrician put in additional outlets to avoid having to stretch cords across the floor.
Stairs and Steps: Look at the stairs you use both inside and outside your home.
- Always keep objects (shoes, books, towels, boxes, etc.) off the stairs. Make sure the pathway is clear.
- Fix loose or uneven steps.
- Make sure that stairways are well-lighted with an overhead light at the top and bottom of the stairs.
- If you don’t have switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs, have an electrician install one, so you never have to go up or down stairs in the dark. Replace burned out light bulbs immediately.
- Make sure carpeting on the stairs is firmly attached to every step, or remove the carpet and attach nonslip rubber treads to the stairs.
- Fix loose handrails or put in new ones. Make sure handrails are on both sides of the stairs and extend the full length of the stairs.
Kitchen: Look at your kitchen and eating area.
- Arrange shelves and cabinets so the things you use most often are on lower shelves.
- If you must use a step stool to reach higher shelves, get one with a bar to hold on to. NEVER use a chair as a step stool.
Bathrooms: Look at all your bathrooms.
- Place non-slip rubber mats or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower.
- If you do not already have grab bars inside the tub and next to the toilet, have them installed.
Bedrooms: Look at all your bedrooms.
- Place lamps close to the bed where they are in easy reach. If there is room, place a lamp on each side of the bed.
- Make sure the pathway from your bed to the bathroom is clear, and place night lights along the pathway so you can see where you’re walking. Night lights with automatic sensors are good – so you don’t have to remember to turn them on.
To prevent falls
- Have your doctor or pharmacist look at all the medicine you take, even over-the-counter medicines. Some medicines can make you dizzy or sleepy.
- Get up slowly after you sit or lay down.
- Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
- Improve the lighting in your home. Put in brighter light bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs are bright and last longer.
- It’s safest to have uniform lighting in a room. Add lighting to dark areas. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
- Paint a contrasting color on the top edge of all steps so you can see the stairs better. For example, use light color paint on dark wood.
Other safety tips
- Keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone.
- Put a phone near the floor in case you fall and can’t get up.
- Think about wearing an alarm device that will bring help in case you fall and can’t get up.