Falls are the No. 1 cause for emergency room visits among older people, and according to a new study, more seniors are falling more often.
Clinical researchers at the University of Michigan Medical Center at Ann Arbor found that tumbles among the elderly increased by 8% over a 12-year period, from 1998 to 2010. More concerning is the finding that falls increased across all age groups--not just the oldest.
That could mean seniors are still making some common safety mistakes like the ones below.
If you're lucky, you just stub your toe on one of these once a year. But if you don't just stumble, you can take a spill. Removing these thresholds may require a power drill, so get assistance if needed.
If the adjoining room is raised, you can smooth out the transition by installing a no-slip flooring ramp.
If you live in a cold-weather area, keep a bag of rock salt or sand handy, like on your front porch, to reduce the risk of slipping on ice. Have a neighbor or friend sprinkle the contents over the icy areas.
If you have pets, look for a pet-friendly ice melt instead of rock salt.
Fumbling around in the dark for a light switch or heading back to your bedroom using only memory can be a hazardous experience. If something fell, or your pet moved a toy into the hall, you won't be able to see it.
Install nightlights in hallways, staircases, and other well-trafficked areas around the home. If you're worried about energy consumption, grab some LED nightlights.
It's vital to use nonslip mats for the shower and bath areas. Chances are, you already have these. You should also pick up some nonslip socks (known as hospital socks) and slippers, as well as rubber tips for canes, crutches, and walkers.
It's important to keep nonslip surfaces clean, so regularly wipe down the ends of rubber tips. Periodically check the soles of nonslip footwear to make sure they aren't wearing down.
Hardwood floors need a good waxing every so often. Just don't use the regular, slip-happy stuff. Instead, use sealer wax with a nonslip finish, like satin. Have a loved one or neighbor come by to help you add the wax.
If you find yourself using the walls to steady yourself in certain areas, like in the bathroom, take a step back. It's much easier to fall when you're bracing against a flat surface, like a wall, or an unsteady one, like an old sink. Have grab bars installed instead, like next to the toilet and in the shower. You can also have upright security poles installed in needed areas, like in front of the tub.
You spill a drink in the living room during your favorite TV show, but you don't feel like cleaning it up till the show is over. It's understandable--but what if you forget? It's not uncommon for seniors to slip on something they forgot to clean up, so wipe up spills immediately and clear the floors of clutter when you first get the chance. Keep paper towels handy in the areas where you usually eat or drink.
You shouldn't need a stepping stool to reach a box of spaghetti or a dinner plate. Take some time to organize regularly used items into easy-to-reach places. The idea is to keep everything within arm's reach. If you need to put an item in storage, consider assigning an unused room for the job instead of placing boxes on high shelves.
Remember, if you need help with any of these tasks, call up a loved one or neighbor or contact the U.S. Administration on Aging branch nearest to you for local assistance.