Fall Prevention on a Dime

The following tips are a collection of low and no cost suggestions to preventing falls (please feel free to add additional ideas in the comments section below):

No Cost:

  • Remove throw rugs throughout the house with two exceptions – keep a throw rug in good condition (edges not turned up) that won’t slide around (rubber lined) outside of your shower and by the kitchen sink. They will absorb water and keep the floor from becoming slippery.
  • Clear out clutter. Stacks of reading materials, piles of laundry, or collections of unneeded furniture are trip hazards. Clearing a path that is 36” wide, leaves enough room to easily maneuver your walker or wheelchair. Make sure there is enough room to navigate around corners, through doorways, and in and out of the bed or shower.
  • Cords and tubes need to be bound together, placed out of walkways, and secured close to walls. If on oxygen, choose better-contrasting colored oxygen tubes to improve visibility. Hang cords or tubes over doorways, if possible, to eliminate them as potential trip hazards.
  • Pets can trip you. Anticipate erratic behavior when new faces are in the house. Use of proper lighting, including nightlights, will help you see pets sleeping in walkways. Also remember to hold onto sturdy object when bending over to feed and water pets. If choosing a new pet, pick one that does not have a “herding” tendency.
  • Set up your bed side table with a light (flashlight), phone, and clock.
  • Relocate heavy and/or frequently used items to storage spaces between knee and shoulder height. This will reduce unnecessary high reaching and avoid use of step stools. It will also limit low bending, which can cause you to loose your balance. This is particularly important in the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.
  • Hang commonly used pots and pans near stove by attaching hooks under upper cabinets. Avoid storing items so high that a step stool is needed to reach them.
  • Keep commonly used plate, bowl, cup, utensils in drying rack near sink. Avoid drawers and cabinets for storage of frequently used items.
  • Leave space besides stove and microwave to set hot pots, pans, and plates when removing from respective cooking device.
  • If vision needed to maintain balance, then sit down for activities that occlude vision, e.g., putting on shirt or drying off your face with towel.
  • Sitting down is also a good idea for performing activities that challenge balance – getting dressed, applying lotion, shaving legs, etc. Avoid standing on one leg to don clothes.
  • Remove storm doors or at least the door closers on the storm doors. Attach a leash to the door to help pull is closer as you drive your scooter through the doorway.
  • Take your time. If you tend to feel dizzy or lightheaded, give yourself time to let these feeling subside before you start walking. Give yourself at least 5 seconds to stand before starting to walk.
  • Start exercising. Research has proven that strength gains are possible for everyone – even if you are over the age of 90 – and improved leg strength reduces your risk for falling.
  • Have your doctor or pharmacist review your medications. If you are taking a high number of medications or a certain types of medication then you may be increased risk for falls.
  • Select your shoes wisely: no open-back shoes; avoid loose-fitting shoes or slippers; do not wear shoes that are too tight or narrow, which lead to increased pressure, discomfort and calluses; no shoes with slick soles; do not wear socks on smooth surfaces, such as linoleum or tile; and no high heels.

Low Cost (< $100):

  • Add grab bars to your shower or tub. Bathtub rims are about 15 inches off the floor and can be quite a challenge to step over without a secure hand hold.
  • If balance worsens with your eyes closed (which happens when you wash your face and hair) – add a shower or tub seat so you can sit down and safely wash.
  • Wet floor are slippery. Add anti-slip strips or mat in shower or tub to prevent slips and falls, particularly when getting into and out of the shower.
  • Add light-sensor nightlights in hallway, bathroom and other areas, as needed. The light-sensor feature will prevent the light from being turned off at night, when it is needed most. Make sure you have a lighted path from bed to toilet.
  • Carpet and transitions (changes in one floor surface to another) should be well maintained. Loose carpeting should be repaired. When buying new carpet, choose carpet that does not have deep pile or thick foam. Transitions in floor surfaces (carpet to tile, carpet to linoleum, etc.) should be only small differences in height.
  • If memory loss is a problem, then reduce fall risks by adding motion-sensor alarms that alert care providers when loved ones start to get out of bed. This helps avoid falls resulting from a failure to call for needed help.
  • Walkers can have drink holders, baskets, and bags attached so you can use walker with two hands instead of carrying items and trying to use walker with one hand.
  • Add furniture risers to low chairs, couches or beds. The elevated height will make it easier to go from sitting to standing. When buying new furniture, choose chairs with arm rests and cushions that adequately support your body – avoid extra soft cushions that sink down once you sit on them.
  • Add no skid surfaces to steps, tape or paint lines on the bottom step. Add risers and railings to make stairways or steps safe and visible.