Falls Prevention« Return
Every 11 seconds an older adult is seen in the ER for a fall-related injury. Aging is part of life, but falls shouldn’t be.
Falls are preventable.
The National Council on Aging, community partners and healthcare providers are working together to help to share information that can help older adults reduce the risk of falling.
If you aren’t moving as well, feeling weaker or concerned with pain that can inhibit getting around safely, talk to your doctor to see if a customized physical therapy plan at St. James Parish Hospital can help you prevent falls in the future. In 2020, St. James Parish Hospital welcomed a Solo-Step Fall Prevention System to our hospital rehab to reduce the risk of falls and safely allow patients with balance or stability issues progress in their therapy programs.
Take the Falls Free Check-up Quiz.
This checklist was developed by the Greater Los Angeles VA Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center and affiliates and is a validated fall risk self-assessment tool. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Watch a video.
Click Here to watch a video introducing the National Council on Aging’s 6 Simple Steps to Reducing a Fall.
NCOA 6 Simple Steps to Helping Your Loved One Reduce the Risk of Falls
1. Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe.
Ask your older loved one if they’re concerned about falling. Many older adults recognize that falling is a risk, but they believe it won’t happen to them or they won’t get hurt—even if they’ve already fallen in the past. A good place to start is by sharing NCOA’s Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls. If they’re concerned about falling, dizziness, or balance, suggest that they discuss it with their health care provider who can assess their risk and suggest programs or services that could help.
2. Discuss their current health conditions.
Find out if your older loved one is experiencing any problems with managing their own health. Are they having trouble remembering to take their medications—or are they experiencing side effects? Is it getting more difficult for them to do things they used to do easily?
Also make sure they’re taking advantage of all the preventive benefits now offered under Medicare, such as the Annual Wellness visit. Encourage them to speak openly with their health care provider about all of their concerns.
3. Ask about their last eye checkup.
If your older loved one wears glasses, make sure they have a current prescription and they’re using the glasses as advised by their eye doctor.
Remember that using tint-changing lenses can be hazardous when going from bright sun into darkened buildings and homes. A simple strategy is to change glasses upon entry or stop until their lenses adjust.
Bifocals also can be problematic on stairs, so it’s important to be cautious. For those already struggling with low vision, consult with a low-vision specialist for ways to make the most of their eyesight.
4. Notice if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking or if they appear to have difficulty walking or arising from a chair.
These are all signs that it might be time to see a physical therapist. A trained physical therapist can help your older loved one improve their balance, strength, and gait through exercise. They might also suggest a cane or walker—and provide guidance on how to use these aids. Make sure to follow their advice. Poorly fit aids actually can increase the risk of falling.
5. Talk about their medications.
If your older loved one is having a hard time keeping track of medicines or is experiencing side effects, encourage them to discuss their concerns with their doctor and pharmacist. Suggest that they have their medications reviewed each time they get a new prescription.
My mom had an elaborate spreadsheet to keep track of her medications and schedules. Adding a timed medication dispenser that my sister refilled each month promoted her peace of mind and allowed us to ensure her adherence to the prescribed regime.
Also, beware of non-prescription medications that contain sleep aids—including painkillers with “PM” in their names. These can lead to balance issues and dizziness. If your older loved one is having sleeping problems, encourage them to talk to their doctor or pharmacist about safer alternatives.
6. Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home.
There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer. For professional assistance, consult an Occupational Therapist. Here are some examples:
Lighting: Increase lighting throughout the house, especially at the top and bottom of stairs. Ensure that lighting is readily available when getting up in the middle of the night.
Stairs: Make sure there are two secure rails on all stairs.
Bathrooms: Install grab bars in the tub/shower and near the toilet. Make sure they’re installed where your older loved one would actually use them. For even greater safety, consider using a shower chair and hand-held shower.
For more ideas on how to make the home safer, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers a home assessment checklist.