By Caitlin Smith, OTR/L, ODT
One in four adults over the age of 65 fall each year, making fall prevention a critical topic for consideration as you and your loved ones age. Both physical and occupational therapy play important roles in fall prevention. Occupational and physical therapists can help identify personal factors, such as balance and strength, as well as assess your environment and the ways you perform everyday tasks that increases your risk for falls. An occupational therapist will assess daily activities, such as taking a shower or shopping for groceries, and make recommendations to make tasks easier or safer. After a fall, occupational and physical therapy play a crucial role in returning you to the activities you love and helping you feel confident and safe at home and in the community.
Scan your Environment
While initiating a strength and fitness routine is an important step, the benefits take time to be realized. Meanwhile, many simple interventions can immediately reduce your fall risk. Take a walk around your house and address or implement these simple strategies:
- Throw rugs/Bath rugs: While throw rugs may complete your bathroom design, they can be a tripping hazard, so consider removing them. If you cannot live without them, make sure they are secured with non slip pads — or even better, use tacks or double-sided tape.
- Cluttered Walkways: Keep walkways and floors free of clutter. Donate, store or toss out items that are clogging your home. Secure cords and keep them out of pathways.
- Dim Lighting: Consider adding brighter light bulbs to dim hallways. Go to the bathroom at night is a time when many older adults experience a fall. Add nightlights along your pathway to the bathroom to help prevent falls.
- Kitchen: Are frequently used and heavier items placed at waist or shoulder height? If you use a step stool, make sure it has a handle. Even safer would be to re-arrange items so that heavier and frequently used items are within close reach.
Still not feeling safe or need other ideas to address your obstacles in the home? Consider contacting an occupational therapist who can thoroughly assess your needs and work with you to identify adaptive equipment and specific home safety modifications to help you feel secure.
Fear of Falling
For older adults who have experienced a fall, and even many who have not, fear of falling can impair their daily life activities. Older adults often limit time in the community and give up valued activities due to anxiety over falling. However, living a full, active lifestyle can prevent a host of symptoms including weakness, cardiac insufficiency, memory issues and depression/anxiety. An occupational therapist can help you identify ways in which you can still participate in meaningful activities safely and as independently as possible.