Anyone can fall and become injured, but people 65 and older are at the highest risk. Over one-third of this group will fall each year, and unfortunately falls are the number one cause of injuries and accidental death for people in this age group. Falls are also the most common reason for hospitalizations because of accidents. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, almost 2 million people 65 and over are treated in emergency rooms each year because of falls, and over 15,000 die each year.
People may even find themselves afraid of falling and may limit their activities, which can reduce their enjoyment of life and lower their levels of physical fitness. That can actually lead to a higher risk of falling. The risk of suffering serious injury or death because of a fall also goes up with age. Almost 85% of deaths from falling are among people who are 75 or older. And those 85 and older are 4 to 5 times more likely to fall than those aged 65 to 74.
There are many ways to reduce the risk of falling inside a home. First of all, a person's ability to move and see is important. So each person should strive to stay as mobile and physically fit as possible. Good eyesight is important, so people need regular eye exams to make sure prescription glasses are the proper strength and to catch cataracts that can impair vision. Good lighting in the home can also help. Watch the effects of prescription medications closely. Some medicines can cause vertigo, general dizziness, weakness and blurry vision. While these things may not be controllable or preventable, it's important to be aware of them and the problems they can cause.
Handrails and grab bars are essential. Hallways with handrails offer something for a person to grab on to in the event of dizziness or faintness, and can simply provide a straight path for someone who needs a little extra help. Grab bars, especially in the bathroom where most home falls occur, will make moving around easier and more convenient, and can help prevent accidents and injuries. A bar inside the tub enclosure should be considered a must, as should bars around the toilet to help provide balance. A safety frame that sits around the toilet can also help.
A wet floor, or the wet surface of a bathtub, can be extra hazardous. Use non-slip mats to make sure that no one will step onto a hard, slick floor while getting out of the tub or shower, or trying to stand from the toilet. Non-stick surfaces with plenty of texture can be applied to the bottom of the bathtub, and along with a grab bar can help prevent dangerous slips. A bathtub lift chair that lowers and raises the person from a seated position can make bathing safer, or a stationary shower chair can be used in a bathtub or shower stall.
Be sure to look around the area you want to make safer and use a critical eye. Imagine the movements people make when using things like the tub and the toilet, and you'll be better able to see where bars and rails can help in your home.