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Preventing Falls in Older Adults - Topic Overview

Take extra care if you live alone

  • If you live alone, think about wearing an alert device that will bring help in case you fall and can't get up. Or carry a cordless or cell phone with you from room to room. Then you can quickly call for help if you need it.
  • Set up a plan to make contact once a day with a family member or friend. Have one person who knows where you are.
  • Learn how to get up from a fall. Try this when you have someone with you. If you can get up alone, practice this often enough to feel comfortable. If you can't get up by yourself, see a physical therapist for help.

Learn ways to keep your balance

  • Learn to do a few exercises for strength and balance. Practicing these each day can help you stay active and independent.
  • Wear low-heeled shoes that fit well and give your feet good support. Use footwear with nonskid soles. Repair or replace worn heels and soles.
  • If you use a walker or cane, make sure it is fitted to you. If you use a cane, replace the rubber tip when it becomes worn.
  • If you have pets, keep them in one place at night. Train your pets not to jump or get underfoot. Think about buying a collar with a bell for your pet so you will know when your pet is nearby.

Learn about your medicines

  • Know the side effects of the medicines that you take. Ask your doctor if the medicines you take can affect your balance. For instance, sleeping pills and some medicines for anxiety can affect your balance.
  • If you take two or more medicines, talk to your doctor about how they work together. Sometimes combinations of medicines can cause dizziness or sleepiness. Either of these can lead to a fall.

Make your home safer

  • Remove or fix things you could trip over, such as raised doorway thresholds, throw rugs, or loose carpet.
  • Keep paths clear of electrical cords and clutter.
  • Use nonskid floor wax, and wipe up spills right away.
  • Keep your house well lit. Use night-lights (or keep the overhead light on at night) in hallways and bathrooms.
  • Put sturdy handrails on stairways. Make sure you have a light at the top and bottom of the stairs.
  • Store things on lower shelves so you don't have to climb or reach high.
  • Keep a phone and a flashlight by your bed. Check the flashlight batteries often to make sure they still work.

For a complete list of hazards to look for and fix at home, see the checklist for preventing falls(What is a PDF document?).

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