A caregiver's guide to fall prevention awareness

Taking time to do a room-by-room assessment is a critical first step in eliminating falling hazards and to protect elderly loved ones from injury or death.

An elderly man hugging a young woman.
Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of older adults 65 and older fall each year. For the aging population, falling is the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal hospital admissions.

If you are the caregiver of an elderly relative or friend, the home is often the place you spend hours with your loved one. Unfortunately, many homes present numerous unforeseen hazards for people with limited mobility, unsteady balance and/or poor vision. A falls prevention guide or checklist can assist you in identifying unsafe areas in the home and offers suggestions to reduce the risk of fall related deaths and injuries.

The CDC’s STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries) initiative provides such patient and caregiver resources to help prevent falls and decrease falling risks. The STEADI Check For Safety A Home Fall Prevention Checklist For Older Adults brochure outlines some of the following home safety strategies:

  • Make sure stairways, steps and floors are level, well-lit and free of objects that pose a tripping hazard.
  • Have handrails and lights installed on all staircases.
  • Remove throw rugs from all areas or secure them with double-sided tape to prevent slipping.
  • Keep the things you use often in cabinets where they can be easily reached.
  • Have grab bars installed next to and inside the tub and next to the toilet.
  • Use non-stick mats and/or sticky strips in the bathtub and shower floors.
  • Improve the lighting in the home by using brighter lights and night lights. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.

As a caregiver, it is critical to keep your loved one safe.  Michigan State University Extension encourages caregivers to be proactive in using a falls prevention guide when assessing and addressing falling hazards that can be found in the home. In addition, older adults should also be discouraged from partaking in risky behaviors like using a step stool or ladder.

Contact your local MSU Extension office to learn more about falls prevention programs in your area, such as A Matter of Balance and Tai Chi for Arthritis and Falls Prevention

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