Most falls occur at home, and most broken bones result from falls at home. Falls can cause serious injury to people of all ages, and for the elderly, falls can lead to a tragic loss of independence and mobility.
Each year, more than 1.9 million people over age 65 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with stairs, bathtubs, furniture, carpeting and other products that seniors live with and use every day.
Thousands of these injuries are related to falls. Simple changes to the inside of your house — such as in furniture arrangement or lighting — can cut your risk of falling in half.
- Make sure light switches are at both the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Provide enough light to see each step and the top and bottom landings.
- Consider installing motion detector lights, which turn on automatically and light your stairway.
- Keep flashlights nearby in case of a power outage.
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairway and be sure to use them.
- If you have bare-wood steps, put nonslip treads on each step.
- Do not use patterned, dark, or thick carpeting. Solid colors show the edges of steps more clearly.
- Repair loose stairway carpeting or boards immediately.
- Do not place loose area rugs at the bottom or top of stairs.
- Do not leave objects on the stairs.
- Install grab bars on the bathroom walls near the toilet and along the bathtub or shower.
- Replace glass shower enclosures with non-shattering material.
- Place a slip-resistant rug next to the bathtub for safe exit and entry.
- Mount a liquid soap dispenser on the bathtub/shower wall.
- Place nonskid adhesive textured strips on the bathtub/shower floor.
- Use a sturdy, plastic seat in the bathtub if you are unsteady or if you cannot lower yourself to the floor of the tub.
- Stabilize yourself on the toilet by using either a raised seat or a special toilet seat with armrests.
- Clear clutter from the floor.
- Place a lamp and flashlight near your bed.
- Sleep on a bed that is easy to get into and out of.
- Install nightlights along the route between the bedroom and the bathroom.
- Keep a telephone near your bed.
- Arrange furniture to create clear pathways between rooms.
- Remove low coffee tables, magazine racks, footrests, and plants from pathways in rooms.
- Install easy-access light switches at entrances to rooms so you will not have to walk into a darkened room in order to turn on the light. Glow-in-the-dark switches may be helpful.
- Secure loose area rugs with double-sided tape or slip-resistant backing. Recheck these rugs periodically.
- Keep electric, appliance, and telephone cords out of your pathways, but do not put cords under a rug.
- Place carpeting over concrete, ceramic, and marble floors to lessen the severity of injury if you fall.
- Repair loose wooden floorboards immediately.
- Throw away wobbly chairs, ladders, and tables.
- Do not sit in a chair or on a sofa that is so low it is difficult for you to stand up.
- Remove throw rugs.
- Immediately clean up any liquid, grease, or food spilled on the floor.
- Store food, dishes, and cooking equipment at an easy-to-reach, waist-high level.
- Do not stand on chairs or boxes to reach upper cabinets. Use only a stepstool with an attached handrail so that you are supported.
- Repair loose flooring.
- Use nonskid floor wax.
Source: US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 2009
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
9400 West Higgins Road
Rosemont, IL 60018