Older Adults: How to Avoid Falls at Home

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on August 07, 2022

Not as sure on your feet as you used to be? Is it a bit harder to see across a room?

You can make your home easier to move around in. This will let you worry less about getting hurt from a slip or a fall.

Your Safe Zone

Clear the clutter. Get a friend or family member to help you clear your walkways of anything you can trip over. Phone cords, electric wires, pet bowls, and other things can cause trouble. Move it out of the way, or think about getting rid of it.

Light it up. As you get older, you need more light to see. Make sure your light switches are easy to reach, and at the bottom and top of any stairs. Turn the lights on before you get up to move around. And always know where your flashlights are in case the power goes out.

Hold the rails. If you have stairways, put handrails on both sides of them and put treads on each step. Hold on to a railing when you walk up or down the stairs, and go slowly. If you are carrying anything, make sure you can see each step.

Cut the skids. Use self-adhesive, non-skid mats or safety treads in bathtubs, showers, and pools. Put non-skid rugs on bathroom floors and pads under rugs on bare floors.

Grab hold. Consider getting grab bars installed on both sides of toilets and bathtubs. Put handrails in the shower and wherever else you need them.

Toss the throw rugs, or make sure they're secured with double-sided tape. More than half of all falls happen at home. This simple fix can help you keep you safe.

Move it where you use it. Keep items you use often -- food, cans, dishes, clothes -- where you can easily reach them. This way you won't have to climb on a stool.

Wear sturdy shoes inside and outside. Solid footwear helps with your balance. Avoid slippers or walking barefoot.

Once your home is a safe zone, you’re less likely to have accidents. You can move around with more confidence and a renewed sense of independence. But talk to your doctor if you're having any trouble. They may refer you to an occupational therapist, who can come to your home and show you how to make more changes.

Knowledge and Power Are Important

Whether you're at home or on the go, two other things can lower your chances of a fall:

Know the side effects. Read the labels on any medications you take, or check with your doctor or pharmacist, to learn if any of the drugs might make you feel dizzy or tired. That can make falling more likely. If you have side effects, write down when they started and let your doctor know. They might change your medicine or dosage.

Staystrong. Weak legs raise your odds of a fall. Keep fit. It’ll give your body a stable foundation. Even a daily walk can make a difference. Or you could try a gentle exercise program, like tai chi, to help improve your balance.