Smart moves to prevent falls

September 02, 2010 By Thomas Lane, M.D.

You probably don't think of your home as a hazardous place, but area rugs, clutter and some other surprising objects in your home can cause you to fall. You can reduce or your fall risk by taking the following steps:

Keep your home safe
• Keep floors clutter-free.
• Avoid highly polished floors and throw rugs; stick to carpeting.
• Fasten rugs to the floor or purchase rugs with nonskid backing.
• Make sure bedrooms, hallways, stairs and bathrooms are well lit.
• When you get up in the morning, sit on the side of the bed for a few minutes before standing, which allows your blood pressure to stabilize, so you won't feel dizzy.
• Install handrails near the bath, shower and toilet and on both sides of staircases.
• Keep kitchen items within easy reach.
• Wear shoes with firm, nonskid soles inside and outdoors.
• Paint a contrasting color step edges so you can see stairs more easily.

Take care when walking outdoors
• Use a cane or a walker for more stability in bad weather.
• Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack or backpack to keep your hands free.
• Check the height of curbs before stepping down.

Take care of yourself
• Get your vitamin D, which improves muscle strength and aids calcium absorption. Adults over age 50 should get 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D daily.
• Have your doctor check your feet if you're experiencing pain or have large, thick toenails and corns.
• Don't smoke.
• Work with your healthcare provider to design an exercise program to prevent falls, emphasizing muscle strength, balance and coordination.
• Try to practice balance exercises every day, such as holding onto the back of a chair, a sink or a counter-top and standing on one leg at a time for a minute. Slowly increase the time, and when you are comfortable, try balancing with your eyes closed or without holding on.
• For safety's sake, don't exercise alone.
• Have your vision checked at least once a year. Conditions like glaucoma and cataracts can limit vision and increase fall risk.
• Talk with your healthcare provider about medicine-related side effects, such as dizziness or weakness, that may cause falling.
• Ask how aging affects the way medicine works in your body and any consequences that may cause falling.

Thomas Lane, M.D., is director of The Hospital of Central Connecticut's Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics and medical director of the Department of Health Promotion. For information on hospital physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone 800.321.6244.