As a nurse for 38 years I’ve taught fall prevention to patients more than any other single topic. I’ve also received multiple educational opportunities on the subject—at least 38.
Yet sadly, two days after Christmas I tripped while cleaning my house, turned my ankle, and broke my fibula—the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg. As I reviewed (over and over) what happened, how it happened, and what I could have done to prevent it, I identified the root cause/causes. I also realized that I had some work to do in my own home and life.
So here are my top five fall prevention essentials.
Remove Tripping Hazards.
Yes, this was my downfall—literally. A foot-stool, which I subsequently used to prop up the broken leg, stuck out a little too far and I tripped.
- Keep pathways clear
- Tape rugs to the floor or remove them completely
- Fight the clutter ooze. You know what I mean.
- Turn on lights before entering a room, or going up or down stairs.
- Keep a night light on in the bathroom.
- Turn on the bedside lamp before getting up to go to the bathroom.
- Leave your porch light on if you are coming home after dark.
Don’t Be A Slug – Maintain physical strength, balance, and mobility
This is admittedly another probable root cause of my broken ankle. My balance is not good and I was unable to recover from the lack of balance/tripping conspiracy. According to the CDC, falls among adults 65 and older caused over 34,000 deaths in 2019, and there are 36 million falls reported among adults older than 65 each year. Many of these are due to loss of balance. I’m not 65, but here I am.
- Many fitness centers, the YMCA, and other groups, offer exercise classes. You can find a world of exercises, yoga, stretches, and mobility helps online and on YouTube.
- Some Medicare providers pay for fitness programs.
- Walk around the block. Walk at the mall. Walk around the inside of your house.
- Focus on exercises that build your core muscles, those in the center off your body.
- Ask your doctor to recommend the best exercise(s) for you.
Move With Intention And Forethought
In my recent fall, I turned and changed direction suddenly, lost my balance, and my foot found the stool. It was a terrible tumbling trifecta!
- Don’t make any sudden changes of direction.
- Be aware what hazards (pets, uneven ground) is in front of you.
- Sit on the edge of the bed for a minute before getting up in the night.
- Take your time. Don’t rush.
- If you need it, there is no shame in using a cane, walker, or wheelchair. It certainly is better than a fall.
- Put non-slip material in the bottom of your tub or shower. Use a shower chair if necessary.
- Install grab bars in the shower and beside the toilet.
- Install hand rails on staircases.
- Wear proper footwear.
- Buy a “reacher” so you don’t need to use a foot stool. Keep things you commonly use within arm’s reach.
- Don’t climb ladders without someone at the bottom to stabilize it.
Now that I’ve done my root-cause analysis and have my list of necessary corrections, I’m hoping I can avoid future falls. Will you join me?
We’ll call it “Fall Free In ’23”!
Please share your favorite fall prevention suggestion in the comments below!