Fall-Proofing Home Helps Older Adults Maintain Independence
INDIANAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–One in three older adults in the United States fall each year1,
often with disastrous results, such as hip fractures, traumatic brain
injuries2 or even death. In fact, 24,000 people over age 65
died after a fall in 2012, which is almost double 10 years earlier.3
Many of these falls occur in the home and could be avoided with a few
simple precautions, according to Dr. Richard Frank, medical director for
Medicare products at Anthem Inc.
Let’s take a quick tour around the home to see where danger lurks.
Frank said a good place to start is in the bathroom, which is one of the
most dangerous places in the home for older adults. To make it safer,
remove rugs that could cause slips or trips and replace them with
non-slip mats, especially around the shower or bathtub. Similarly, place
non-skid suction mats, strips and decals to the floor of the shower or
bathtub. Consider installing grab bars in and around the shower, bathtub
and toilet. Those having trouble with balance or standing may want to
use a shower chair. Finally, a raised toilet seat will help those who
have trouble getting on or off the toilet.
While in the bathroom, do a quick audit of the medicine cabinet.
Consider taking the contents of it to a doctor to review the medications
inside and make sure they won’t interact or cause dizziness or a risk of
Stairwells pose another significant falls risk to older adults. They
should always be well lit and include a hand-rail or perhaps two.
Clutter should be removed from the stairwell area, including books,
clothes and shoes. Speaking of shoes, those prone to falls should always
wear sneakers, even inside the house, and not slippers or just socks.
Other living areas in the home should be well lit and any throw rugs
should be firmly secured. Arrange furniture so there is plenty of room
to walk freely.
Now, it’s onto the kitchen. Clean up any kitchen spills as soon as they
occur so they won’t cause a fall. Also, store frequently used items in
the front of cabinets where they can be easily reached. If you must use
a stepstool, use a sturdy one with a handrail and wide steps. Those who
wax their kitchen floors should always use non-slip wax.
While we’re here, the refrigerator could use a falls makeover, too.
Getting adequate nutrition, including calcium and vitamin D, strengthens
bones and helps prevent falls. So stock the fridge with foods like
nonfat milk, low-fat yogurt and leafy green vegetables, while
eliminating alcoholic drinks, which are known to cause falls.
Before we end this fall-proofing tour, don’t forget to extend fall
prevention efforts outside the home. For example, keep the porch, deck,
walkways and driveway free of leaves, snow, trash or clutter and in good
repair, including using non-slip paint on outdoor steps. Older
homeowners should turn on outside lights when leaving for the evening so
their path will be clearly illuminated when they return.
Many of the items listed here can be purchased at a local home center or
hardware store. People who need help with installation should enlist the
support of friends or family members, Frank said. Additionally, some
Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, and some social service organizations,
have programs to help members identify fall risks and make needed
repairs, he added. Some MA plans may even include an electronic pendant
for summoning aid in an emergency, such as a fall. If you have access to
these services, make sure to take advantage of them.
“Some people think falls are inevitable, but they don’t have to be,”
Frank said. “With a little preventive action, falls can be prevented,
along with the dire consequences that can sometimes accompany them,
allowing people to stay safely and independently in their homes.”
This information is intended for educational purposes only and should
not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your health care
provider for advice about treatments that may affect your health.
About Anthem, Inc.
Anthem is working to transform health care with trusted and caring
solutions. Our health plan companies deliver quality products and
services that give their members access to the care they need. With
nearly 70 million people served by its affiliated companies, including
more than 38 million enrolled in its family of health plans, Anthem is
one of the nation’s leading health benefits companies. For more
information about Anthem’s family of companies, please visit www.antheminc.com/companies.
Doug Bennett Jr., (502) 889-2103