Aging in Place: Preventing a Fall

Nearly 90% of all older adults report wanting to stay in their own home as they age and 82% say they want to stay in their homes even if they need daily assistance.  Aging in place is a national movement to enable people to stay in their own homes as they grow older by making available the social support, health care and home maintenance services they require to live happy, productive lives in the community.

Denise Simoneau, Occupational Therapy Supervisor, believes that “occupational therapy plays an important role in assisting older adults to ‘age in place’. We can provide clients with education and tools to optimize their home environment and promote full participation in daily activities.”

Common age related changes to older adults include reduced vision, decreased muscle strength and endurance, reduced mental processing capabilities, increased risk of illness, reduced hearing and decreased mobility. These age- related changes have a direct impact on the older adult’s functional performance in daily activities.

In 2009, 2.2 million older adults visited the emergency room for injuries from a fall. Preventing a fall can be as easy as making some home modifications such as:

  • Lifting throw rugs and fix loose carpeting
  • Make sure rooms are brightly lit
  • Pets and toys are in a contained area
  • Cleaning clutter
  • Check to see that thresholds allow a smooth transition from room-to-room
  • Install railings when possible
  • Place non-slip strips or a rubber mat on the floor on the tub or shower
  • Install grab bars and use shower/tub seats in the bathroom
  • Rearrange furniture to allow plenty of room to walk freely
  • Review the entire home to make sure frequently used items are within reach, while creating a plan for items that you don’t need often like seasonal items or china.

Older adults fall for a number of reasons, and for some the fear of falling can lead to a fall. For many, this fear can lead to avoiding activities, and self-limiting behavior which can lead to decreased strength and endurance. This deconditioning increases the risk for a fall.

As a family member you can listen to the older adult’s concerns. If the concern is about falling at night, focus specifically on bed mobility and nighttime bathroom needs. You can encourage the older adult to increase their strength and endurance by doing activities they enjoy.  Gardening will increase strength, walking will increase endurance or carrying shopping bags to increase balance. The most important approach to minimizing the risk of falling is through recognizing and addressing the older adult’s specific concern.

A valuable resource for information on community organizations that are available to assist you, please look at the community resource guide.

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