Six simple tips to prevent a fall

Falls can happen at any age but did you know they cause 85% of injury-related hospitalizations in people over the age of 65?

Daphne Flatt, an Occupational Therapist at North York General Hospital (NYGH), shares tips she and others in her profession want older adults to know to prevent a fall from happening. Occupational therapists work collaboratively with an interprofessional team at NYGH to help patients regain their mobility and function after a bad fall.

There are many simple things we can do to prevent a bad fall from happening.

“Recovering from a bad fall is challenging. The physical injury from a broken bone or hip fracture takes time to heal, and so does the fear that comes with it," says Daphne. The good news is
Daphne recommends seniors consider the following:

1. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist

  • Make a list of the prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements you are taking. Your doctor or pharmacist can check for side effects and drug interactions that may increase your risk of falling.

  • Have your hearing and vision checked regularly.

  • Tell your doctor if you have fallen before. Write down the details, including when, where and how you fell.

2. Keep moving

  • Stay physically active every day and keep hydrated. It's your best defence against falls. Walking is a great option. Maintain your overall strength, endurance and balance with simple exercises. Many exercise programs for seniors are available in the community. Make sure to talk to you doctor before starting any new exercise program.

3. Wear sensible shoes

  • High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slippery soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. So can walking in your stocking feet. Wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with non-skid soles.
4. Remove home hazards
  • Take a look around your home for hazards to make your home safer:

  • Remove clutter, electrical wires and phone cords from walking paths.

  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.

  • Remove or secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing.

  • Store frequently used items (clothing, dishes, food, toiletries) within easy reach.

  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.

  • Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower. Consider a bath seat, which allows you to sit while showering.

  • Properly install railings on stairs and grab bars in the washroom.

5. Light up your life

  • Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects.

  • Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways.

  • Have a lamp within easy reach of your bed for middle-of-the-night needs.

  • Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.

  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

6. Use assistive devices

  • Don't be embarrassed to use aids for daily living, these tools can keep you safe and active. Wear your glasses and hearing aids. Purchase a reacher device and long handled shoe horn. Consider a walker or cane that has been professionally selected to match your needs (height, weight, balance, location for use).

Occupational Therapist Daphne Flatt shows some of the aids (walker, reacher and long shoe horn) that can help prevent a bad fall.

Occupational Therapist Daphne Flatt shows some of the aids (walker, reacher and long shoe horn) that can help prevent a bad fall.

Resources

  • November is Falls Prevention Month across Canada. You can learn more on how to protect yourself from falling or someone you love at fallpreventionmonth.ca.
     

  • The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) A Self-Assessment Guide identifies the types of difficulties that seniors can experience and describes adaptions that can help.
     

  • Additional falls prevention information is provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

This article first appeared in the November 2016 issue of The Pulse.

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