10 Environmental Hazards That Cause Older Adults To Fall & How To Avoid Them
Every year, one out of every three adults age 65 or older will fall. It is a problem that can cause serious consequences including broken bones, closed head injuries, bruising and more.
This is a big problem and needs to be addressed. How many falls occur each year? A lot.
The below chart shows how many falls occurred in 2010 for different age groups. These were only the ones that were medically addressed (not the ones that went unreported) so the actual amount is at least twice as high considering that half of all incidents go unreported.
The numbers on the right of the chart are probably even higher now since the baby boomer generation is getting older.
Caregivers and home health providers need to be aware of this so we can advocate for our clients and work toward preventing falls. Instead of just listing off the top 10 tripping hazards I thought I would showcase it in a visual format. I think this will help the material stand out better so the next time you are at your client’s home you can remember to bring up the importance of removing tripping hazards.
10 Fall Hazards For Older Adults & How To Avoid Them
1. Throw Rugs
Throw rugs might be the biggest culprit to falls. They have a tendency to bunch up and its easy to trip over them. The best option is to not use them at all. If you have a rug that is dear to your heart than try to keep it in an area that is not used very often.
My wife is setting a rule with our young daughter (she’s 6 months old right now so we’ll implement it a bit later). The rule is that she has to pick up one type of toy before she can start playing with another. We have a tendency to enjoy getting stuff out but not putting it away. This ends up creating clutter on the floor. Its best just to keep things clean and tidy and you won’t have to worry about tripping over it.
3. Steps That Are Too Steep or Too Long
This is quite the staircase! Not sure I know anyone that would want to embark on this journey. Seems like one of those optical illusions that just keep going and going. Anyway, I digress.
Staircases can be a huge problem for older adults because the surface is not level. When a staircase is too steep you may not have the strength to make it to the top because steeper stairs work the muscles more. This is also the reason staircases that are too long cause problems. The muscles get fatigued and cause a fall to occur.
4. Poor Lighting (Too Dim or Too Bright)
And God said, “Let their be light!” He said it for a reason. One of those reasons is so we can see where we are walking. How could we get around if we didn’t have light? When we keep our homes dimly lit it increases the likelihood that you may trip over something that we didn’t see. Keeping it too bright is also a problem because it may create a glare. A general rule is to keep the home lit well but not overly lit.
My “Krissy-Pie!” That’s the name of my sweet little springer spaniel. We used to play up at our cottage in the back yard. She would run and chase frogs and birds and whatever else we could find. Our pets have a special place in our heart. But they also can be a major hazard because they tend to lay in prime walking areas. They like to be the center of attention so this is one reason why they do it. Often times, they become tripping hazards. I’m certainly not telling you to get rid of your animals. Though it is important to be aware of this so you can not be caught off guard when you find them right underneath your feet.
6. Unstable Chairs or Tables
Do I have any takers for trying out this chair? Hmm… anyone? Your favorite chair or sofa might not be this dilapidated but it still may be a fall hazard. When chairs or sofas don’t have sturdy arms or backrests they can easily cause you to fall. Make sure that any chair or sofa you sit in has adequate support.
7. Extension Cords Across Walkways
Have any of you done this? Leaving cords out in the middle of a hallway is very dangerous. You can trip right over it and fall to the ground. Make sure that cords stay close to the wall.
8. Toilet Seat Too Low
Toilet seats that are too low can be major hazards for falls. Typically, the legs start to atrophy when they get older and lose their strength. When its time to get back up from using the toilet, sometimes the legs give out and you fall. Its very important to have grab bars along the wall next to the toilet. You can grab these bars to help propel you up. Another good option is to use a booster seat. This is a type of seat that sits on top of your current toilet seat. Its a great safety precaution because you don’t need to squat down as low.
9. Sloping Driveway
Any type of uneven surface can cause a problem. Driveways cause lots of problems because of the slope. There is not much preventative measure that you can take here except for being aware of the issue and being extra careful.
10. Cracks in Sidewalk
Cracks in sidewalks or pathways leading to and from your house can cause problems. Again, not much you can do here but be aware that they exist and that its important to be extra careful.
The biggest preventative for any of these environmental hazards or fall risks is to be extra careful. Sometimes the biggest preventative to falling is awareness of your surroundings. Take things slow. There’s no need to rush. If you change your current surroundings and be extra careful you will experience far fewer falls.