Fall prevention check list for older adults

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For many individuals, home is a refuge, a safe place. But for some older adults, this safe place can become dangerous. Each year, thousands of older adults fall in their own homes, resulting in serious injury or even death. 

Falls at home are often due to hazards that are easy to overlook, but easy to fix. This checklist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help you identify hazards at home and suggest ways to fix them.

Floors
Do you have to walk around furniture when you walk into a room?
Ask someone to move the furniture so your path is clear.
Do you have rugs on the floor?
Remove the rugs or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so the rugs won’t slip.
Are there objects on the floor, such as boxes, shoes, magazines or papers?
Always keep objects off the floor and pick up anything on the floor.
Do you have to walk over or around wires or cords (like telephone, lamp or extension cords)?
Coil or tape wires next to the wall so you don’t trip over them. If necessary, have an electrician install another outlet.

Stairs & Steps
Are there objects on the stairs, such as papers, shoes or books?
Pick up things on the stairs. Always keep objects off the stairs.
Are some steps uneven or broken?
Ask someone to fix loose or uneven steps.
Are you missing a light over the stairway?
Have an electrician install an overhead light at both the top and bottom of the stairs.
Do you only have one light switch for the stairs (only at the top or bottom of the stairs)?
Have an electrician install a light switch at both the top and bottom of the stairs. You can get light switches that glow and are easy to see.
Has the stairway light bulb burned out?
Ask someone to change the light bulb.
Is the carpet on the steps loose or torn?
Make sure the carpet is firmly attached to each step or remove the carpet and attached non-slip rubber treads to the stairs.
Are the handrails loose or broken? Is there a handrail on only one side of the stairs?
Fix loose handrails or install new ones. Make sure handrails are on both sides of the stairs and are as long as the stairs.

Kitchen
Are the things you use most often on high shelves?
Move items in your cabinets, keeping things you use often on the lower shelves (about waist level).
Is your step stool unsteady?
If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool.

Bathrooms
Is the tub or shower floor slippery?
Put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower.
Do you need support when you get in and out of the tub or up from the toilet?
Have someone install grab bars next to and inside the tub and next to the toilet.

Bedrooms
Is the light near the bed hard to reach?
Place a lamp close to the bed where it is easy to reach.
Is the path from the bedroom to the bathroom dark?
Put in a night light so you can see where you are walking. Some nightlights turn on by themselves after dark.

Other things you can do to prevent falls include:
Do exercises that improve your balance and make your legs stronger.
Have your doctor review all the medications you take.
Have your vision checked at least once a year and update your glasses if necessary.
Wear shoes both inside and outside your house.
Improve the lighting in your home by using brighter bulbs.
Talk with your doctor about things you can do to prevent falls.

McLaren Port Huron will host A Matter of Balance, a program through MSU Extension that teaches practical ways to manage falls. Anyone who is concerned about falling, has fallen in the past or is interested in increasing balance, flexibility and strength is invited to attend. This four-week program meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. beginning September 21. Space is limited, and participants must attend all eight sessions. To register or for more information, call HealthAccess at 1-800-228-1484.