It can happen in an instant. You miss a step, slip on a wet floor or suddenly lose your balance and tumble to the ground.
If you’re lucky, you walk away with only a few bruises. What happens is often far more serious—such as a broken ankle or fractured hip that may take months of recovery.
Fall Safety at Home
There are several ways to reduce your or a loved one’s risk of falling at home. Actions you can take to prevent falling include:
- Remove throw rugs or use non-skid rugs.
- Ensure good lighting both inside and outside.
- Keep floors inside and outside in good condition; dry and clear of clutter.
- Keep phone and emergency numbers within reach at all times.
- Move slowly from lying to sitting and from sitting to standing. Pace yourself.
- Sit down to dress or bathe whenever possible.
- Make sure all doors and windows open easily.
- Items you use regularly should be limited to within waist to shoulder level reach, minimizing bending, stooping or over reaching (example: oven, refrigerator, drawers).
- Consider installing grab bars, non-skid bath mats, shower seats and stair rails to improve safety.
- Be cautious around pets, small children, electrical cords and oxygen tubing.
- Consistently use walker or cane if recommended.
Medical and Physical Factors that Can Increase a Person’s Risk of Falling
- Medicines that affect blood pressure, awareness or thinking.
- Unsteady when walking.
- Decreased heart function.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Low blood sugar or high blood sugar.
- History of falls.
- Decreased or increased feeling in feet or legs.
- Urgency for toileting needs.
- Poor vision.
- Oxygen tubing.
- If you live alone, ask a friend or relative to call daily to check on you.
- If you have pain, fatigue, weakness or neuropathy that makes you feel unsteady while walking, we can help. Rehabilitation Services are available through Columbus Regional Health. Ask your physician or nurse if a referral is right for you. For more information on Rehabilitation Services, call 812-372-3035.
- Contact your doctor, physical therapist or occupational therapist if you need medical equipment to keep you safe. Ask your physician for a referral. For more information, call 812-372-3035.
- For emergencies, dial 911.
Fall Prevention Evaluation
Take the following evaluation to learn what you can do to prevent falls, stay active and remain independent. If you answer yes to any question, refer to the following information on what you can do to avoid the risk of falling.
Have you had any falls in the last six months?
- Talk with your doctor about your previous falls and/or concerns.
- Show this checklist to your doctor to help understand and treat your risks and protect yourself from falls.
- Report any falls to your doctor right away. For emergencies, dial 911.
Do you take four or more prescriptions or over-the-counter medications daily?
- Review your medications with your doctor and your pharmacist at each visit and with each new prescription.
- Ask which of your medications can cause drowsiness, dizziness or weakness as a side effect.
- Talk with your doctor about anything that could be a medication side effect or interaction.
Do you have any difficulty walking or standing?
- Tell your doctor if you have any pain, aching, soreness, stiffness, weakness, swelling or numbness in your legs or feet. Don’t ignore these types of health problems.
- Tell your doctor about any difficulty walking and discuss treatment options.
- Ask your doctor if physical therapy or treatment by a medical specialist would be helpful to your problem.
Do you use a cane, walker or crutches or have to hold onto things when you walk?
- Ask your doctor for training from a physical therapist to learn what type of device is best for you and how to safely use it.
Do you need to use your arms to stand up from a chair?
- Ask your doctor for a physical therapy referral to learn exercises to strengthen your leg muscles.
- Exercise at least 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes.
Do you ever feel unsteady on your feet, weak or dizzy?
- Tell your doctor and ask if treatment by a specialist or physical therapist would help improve your condition.
- Review all of your medications with your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any of these conditions.
Has it been more than 2 years since you had an eye exam?
- Schedule an eye exam every 2 years to protect your eyesight and your balance.
Has your hearing gotten worse with age or do your family or friends say you have a hearing problem?
- Schedule a hearing test every two years.
- If hearing aids are recommended, learn how to use them to help protect and restore your hearing, which helps improve and protect your balance.
Do you usually exercise less than 2 days a week (for 30 minutes total each of the days you exercise)?
- Ask your doctor what types of exercise would be good for improving your strength and balance.
- Find some activities that you enjoy and people to exercise with 2-3 days a week for 30 minutes each day.
Do you drink alcohol daily?
- Limit alcohol to one drink per day to avoid falls.
Do you have more than 3 chronic health conditions (such as heart or lung problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, etc.)? Ask your doctor if you are unsure.
- See your doctor as often as recommended to keep your health in good condition.
- Ask your doctor what you should do to stay healthy and active.
- Report any health changes that cause weakness or illness as soon as possible.
This information appears in the Patient Navigation Toolkit published by the Cancer Center of Columbus Regional Health.