Falls account for eight million ER visits annually. Protect yourself and your loved ones.

The older we get the more dangerous accidental falls become. In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), falls are the most common cause of fatal injury to older people, including fatal head injuries and hip fractures. But there are ways to protect yourself. Learn more from Mark Shepard, MD, about fall prevention.

Safety at home

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It’s a good idea periodically to review your home for safety. Some general suggestions from CPSC:

  • Avoid scatter or throw rugs, which can slip out from under foot. When purchasing new rugs, look for slip resistant backing and check the backing regularly to see if it needs to be replaced.
  • Keep floors clear of smaller items that could trip you. If children or grandchildren are visiting, be on the lookout for toys or other items that can get left on the floor.
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers by the phone, and try to keep at least one phone in the house low enough to the ground so that even if you were to fall and find yourself unable to stand up, you could still reach the phone.
  • Be aware of lighting conditions in the home. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), as our eyes age, less light reaches the back of the eyes, so we don’t see things as clearly as we once did. Therefore, the lighting in the home should be adjusted and brightened, to help avoid tripping over objects that are not easy to see.

It can also be a good idea to make sure that someone – a family member or neighbor or social worker, for example – is able to check up on you regularly in case there is a problem.

Other safety concerns

Be cautious outdoors too. Rainy or icy weather conditions are the kind most people consider to be potentially hazardous, but even in dry or sunny weather, there can be problems so it’s important to stay alert year-round. For example, in spring as the weather warms, potholes or cracked pavement can develop. In fall, wet leaves on the ground can be slippery.

Regular check-ups from your doctor are also important. Be aware of any changes in your hearing or vision that may occur as you get older. AAFP says that problems caused by side effects from medicine are a common cause of falls. The more medicines that are taken (and seniors as a group do tend to take more medications), the greater the risk having of side effects, which increases the risk of falling.

In addition, when you get out of bed in the morning or at night to use the bathroom, AAFP suggests you sit on the side of the bed for a few minutes before standing up, because blood pressure takes some time to adjust when you sit up. If it’s too low you can get dizzy, lose your balance and fall.

Remember, as we get older, our bones get thinner and become more vulnerable during a fall. Injuries can also take longer to heal as we age, so it truly pays to take extra precautions whenever possible.