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Preventing Falls Among Elderly Parents

Falls are the leading cause of death, injury and hospitalization among seniors. In fact, last year alone, more than 1.6 million seniors were treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. Several factors contribute to the fact that older people fall much more frequently than younger people:

Lack of physical activity. Not exercising regularly leads to low muscle tone, decreased bone mass, loss of balance and reduced flexibility.

Vision disorders. This includes age-related vision diseases, as well as not wearing prescribed glasses.

Medications. Sedatives, antidepressants and antipsychotics, as well as taking multiple medications are all implicated in increasing the risk of falling.

Diseases. Health conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis lead to weakness in the extremities, poor grip strength, balance problems, and cognitive impairment.

Surgeries. Hip replacements and other surgeries leave an older person weak, in pain and discomfort, and less mobile than they were before the surgery.

Environmental hazards. A third of all falls in older adults involve hazards in the home. Factors include: poor lighting, loose rugs and lack of safety equipment.

However, falls are not an inevitable part of aging. Many falls can be prevented by making the home safer and using products that help keep seniors more stable and less likely to fall.

Make the house safer

Caregivers can do several things to make the home safer for their senior mother or father.

· Install safety bars, grab bars or handrails in the shower or tub.

· Tape the floor of the tub.

· Use a stool booster seat to make getting in and out of the toilet easier.

· Install at least one stair handrail that extends beyond the first and last step.

· Make sure stairs are sturdy with sturdy handrails.

· Make sure the stairs are well lit. Consider making the lighting in your home brighter to make it easier to see.

· Make sure rugs, including those on stairs, are nailed to the floor.

· Remove loose area rugs.

· Avoid clutter. Remove all unnecessary furniture. All remaining furniture should be stable and without sharp corners, to minimize the effects of a fall.

· Change the location of furniture, so that your elderly relative can hold on to something as they move around the house.

· Do not leave electrical cords lying on the floor. Have additional base outlets installed so that long cords are not required.

· Ask your parent to wear non-slip shoes or slippers, rather than walking with socks.

· Make sure all rooms have adequate lighting. Consider motion-sensitive lights that turn on when a person enters a room. Use nightlights in every room.

· Store frequently used items in easily accessible cabinets.

· Use a grabbing tool to grab out-of-reach objects, rather than a chair or stepladder.

· Keep the water heater thermostat set at 120 degrees F or lower to avoid scalding and scalding.

· Wipe up spills and remove broken glass immediately.

For more information on how to care for your elderly mother or father, please visit

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