Westmed’s Dr. William Martimucci, a geriatric specialist, brings advice to individuals age 65 and older on precautions to take to prevent falls and reduce injuries from slips and trips. More than one out of four older people fall each year, and these mishaps often result in emergency room treatment.
Slips and trips frequently cause the falls that bring a patient to the doctor’s office. Slips occur when there is too little friction between a person’s feet and the walking surface due to water, cleaning fluids, oil, ice and other slippery substances. Always promptly clean up spills of slippery substances.
Trips happen when a person’s foot contacts an object, and he/she is thrown off balance. Some of the culprits are objects that protrude into your walkway—perhaps a piece of furniture or books or magazines stored low on a shelf. Poor lighting and uneven walking surfaces also cause tripping.
To protect yourself from injury, “an important first step is to do a home safety check,” says Dr. Martimucci. Do your risk assessment from the following list:
- Make sure that appliance cords, lamp cords, and telephone cords are not in your walkways.
- Ensure there is proper lighting available and within reach for evening and nighttime.
- Don’t put cords under your carpets. It creates an uneven walking surface.
- Make sure that furniture is arranged so it doesn’t intrude on your usual path between rooms.
- Get rid of throw rugs that do not have adhesive, nonskid backing.
- Replace light bulbs when they burn out. But if they are too high to reach, ask someone to replace them for you.
- In the kitchen, do not use chairs with rollers. Use chairs that give you a stationary sitting surface.
Next, avoid activities that are potentially hazardous and “that stress your system, or are beyond your abilities,” he explains. For instance:
- Don’t move furniture alone.
- Don’t get up on ladders without someone to help you. “Many accidents happen when an elderly person climbs up a ladder by him or herself to get something off the top shelf of a closet,” Dr. Martimucci says.
Do “defensive walking.” Wear proper footwear to anticipate the condition of surfaces.
- Minimize the risk of slips by wearing shoes with slip-resistant soles.
- “Shoes also need to fit well and feel good, meaning they shouldn’t hurt,” advises Dr. Martimucci.
- Don’t wear high heels on ice and snow.To ensure safety in the bathroom, consider having some equipment installed, such as grab bars or hand rails, non-skid surfaces in the bathtub, and consider a shower seat if it would help you.
Get regular medical checkups.
“The doctor will evaluate a patient’s ability to move, will assess physical strength and will evaluate any medical problems, such as any balance issues, medications being taken and vision,” says Dr. Martimucci. “Many times patients are taking too many medications that can cause problems with gait or lower the blood pressure too much.”
Take these home safety precautions, see your doctor, and don’t let a slip, trip, or fall keep you from enjoying life.