McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK


May 6, 2014

Cut risk of older adults falling with safety measures

Sometimes trips and tumbles are unavoidable.

But, for older adults, who are at increased risk for falling, it is important to take steps to protect themselves, especially at home.

Falling is scary enough, but sometimes the resulting injuries end up affecting older adults’ independence and quality of life.

The good news is most falls can be prevented.

Given that May is Older Americans Month, it is a good time to focus on this topic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among adults 65 and older. Furthermore, 20 percent to 30 percent of those who fall sustain moderate injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures or head trauma.

Balance and gait, vision, medications and chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis can contribute to older adults falling.

So, too, can the home environment.

Common hazards around your house could include items on the floor, poor lighting, loose rugs and less-than-sturdy furniture.

The first step to ensuring your home is as safe as possible from falling hazards is to do a simple walkthrough identifying potential problem areas.

For guidance on how to conduct an assessment, review the CDC’s “Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults at (Click on “Home and Recreational Safety, select “Falls — Older Adults” and choose “Publications and Resources.”) The publication is available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

Meanwhile, try to be objective about your clutter.

Clearing out the clutter can be fun, but also emotional.

If you don’t want to tackle the project alone, make it a group project by inviting friends and family to help.

Make sure there is enough room to move around your furniture and for assistive devices such as wheelchairs to easily navigate.

There should be at least 32 inches of clearance between pieces of furniture.

 Leave 18 inches between the coffee table, if there is one, and the couch or other furniture to allow people to comfortably move through the space.

Installing proper lighting will go a long way to ensuring older adults can comfortably move throughout their homes and enjoy everyday tasks such as reading.

Shadows can be as much of a falling hazard as low or no light.

You can put nightlights in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways, and consider keeping flashlights in easy-to-find places in case.

Finally, do not forget to install secure rails along both sides of staircases and put in grab bars in the tub or shower and near the toilet.

There are lots of easy and inexpensive ways to make the home safer for older adults. Taking the time for simple tasks like screwing in a light bulb or tightening a bolt on a stairway railing can help reduce the risk of injury.

LaDell Emmons is the family and consumer science Extension educator for Pittsburg County. Contact her at or 918-423-4120.


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