Home is where the heart is, but it is also the most common place for falls to occur. However, there are some small changes you can make to your home environment that make a big difference in preventing falls. Home safety assessments done by professionals tend to look at three different categories of factors that influence fall risk:
- The first category sums up all ways in which we can keep any space where we walk free of obstacles that can be tripped over. This means getting rid of all throw rugs and tacking electrical cords tightly to the wall, so they cannot be stepped on. It also includes arranging your furniture in a way that allows you to freely access all the spaces of your home. For example, if you use a step stool in the kitchen try not to leave it in front of the stove where you can trip over it.
- The second category is related to preventing falls at night. Practically speaking, most of us turn all the lights off at night while we sleep. We also typically use the bathroom one or more times a night. Unfortunately, balance ability stems partially from vision and navigating your way to the bathroom in the dark is a sure-fire way to decrease your balance ability. Bedside lamps, tap lights, or leaving on the bathroom light on at night are good strategies to allow you to use your vision to prevent falls. Also, if you use a cane or walker for balance make sure this is by your bed, so it can be used in the middle of the night.
- The third category includes preventing falls where they occur the most: the shower, the stairs, and the entryway. Stepping over a tub and into the shower can be hazardous if you already do not have good balance. Adding grab bars to the area can help give a stable place to hold onto. Making sure there are adequate handrails on the stairs can also prevent falls. Sometimes even two handrails will be necessary to safely use steep stairs. Entryways can often be wet and slippery. Using a non-skid rubber flooring and keeping the entryway free of extra shoes, shovels, and coats can also help to prevent falls.
In conclusion, changing your environment can go a long way in keeping your home happy and healthy. If you still feel you are unsteady on the stairs or while going to the bathroom at night, it may be time to ask your doctor for a fall risk assessment. This can be done here at Flaherty Physical Therapy. We may be able to give you a few simple exercises that will improve your balance and keep you on your feet!