Joyce Clark, Executive Director of Saint Ann Retirement Center in Oklahoma City.

Story by Joyce Clark, Executive Director – Saint Ann Retirement Center

Senior living communities are a popular choice for people with a history of falling down because typically the building has design features to help reduce fall risk. Minimum thresholds, walk-in showers, handrails, contrasting colors, low-pile flooring, and non-glare lighting are examples of some senior living building amenities that help to lower fall incidents. You can implement these and other safety enhancements in your own home.
As people age they experience physical and lifestyle changes that can also lead to falls. Health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, heart arrhythmias, dehydration, inner ear problems, vertigo, and urinary tract infection can increase a person’s chance of falling. Other risk factors include: * Dizziness * Foot problems like numbness, corns, bunions, ingrown nails, or ulcerations * Cataracts, glaucoma, depth perception and vision problems * Weak muscles or poor balance * Confusion or memory loss * Drinking too much alcohol * Vitamin D deficiency
It is a good idea to show a complete list of all medications, herbs, and remedies to your physician at each visit to help maintain safety and good health. Medication side effects or taking a number of medications at the same time can also increase fall risk. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and walking steadiness. Medications that most commonly cause blurred vision, dizziness, unsteadiness, drowsiness, or difficulty thinking include: * Blood pressure lowering medications * Sleep aids and sedatives * Antidepressants and psychotropics * Anticonvulsants for epilepsy
Some other general tips to reduce fall risk are: * Have your eyes and vision examined annually. * Stay physically active. Exercise helps to prevent falls, especially activities that enhance balance and coordination. A lot of exercise and stretching can be done from or using a sturdy chair for balance. * Wear shoes with non-slip soles. Socks can be a slipping risk. * Wear pants and clothing that are properly hemmed and don’t drag on the ground. * Take your time moving from a lying or sitting position to standing. * Use the arms of sturdy furniture when you sit down, reach, or stand up. * Use a reacher to retrieve items from the floor without bending over and from high shelves without using a footstool. You can use a reacher to wipe up spills while seated or standing. * Keep a mobile telephone nearby in an easy to reach location. * Wear an emergency call pendant or have “Alexa” in different rooms programmed to call for help when requested.
* Clean up clutter. Move newspapers, furniture, plants, and electrical cords out of traffic areas.
* Store clothing, towels, and household items where you can safely reach them.
* Eliminate uneven floor surfaces. Replace high doorway thresholds between rooms with low, beveled ones, or remove them.
* Replace thick carpets with dense, low-pile carpet or leave the floors uncovered.
* Arrange furniture to give you plenty of room to walk freely.
* Secure carpets to the floor and stairs. Remove throw rugs. Use non-slip rugs or attach rugs to the floor with double-sided tape.
* Put non-slip tape strips on steps, bathtub, and floors.
* Use a shower chair / bench.
* Rinse all soap from tub / shower before getting out.
* Install adjustable height or hand-held showerhead.
* Mount grab bars with secure reinforcement at the toilet, bath, and shower walls.
* Secure bath mats with non-slip, double-sided rug tape.
* Install a night-light to help you get to the bathroom safely. There are also motion detector versions that automatically light up as you approach the area.
* Sit in a sturdy armchair to dress and undress.
* Use a long-handled shoehorn to put on shoes without bending over.
* Use a dressing stick to pull on pants or skirts, take off socks, and reach hanging clothes.
* Place a portable commode or a plastic urinal near your bed.
* Keep clean pans on the stove or in a countertop rack instead of hanging or putting them in a cabinet.
* Store plates, bowls, cups, and other frequently used items in an easily accessible drawer or shelf.
* Sit in a sturdy chair when you cut vegetables or do other kitchen tasks.
* Install slide-out shelving or a lazy susan.
* Use a wheeled cart for extra storage and to help move heavy items. For example, use it to move a dish from the refrigerator to the oven.
* Keep the floor dry. Have paper towels and a reacher handy for cleanup.
* Make sure handrails are securely fastened.
* Install handrails on both sides of steps.
* Put non-slip tape on steps.
* Turn on lights before going up or down stairs.
* Take a pause before going up or down stairs.
* Place nightlights in hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and stairways.
* Install light switches at the top and bottom of stairs.
* Place a lamp near your bed. Touch on/off lamps are easier to use.
* Add lighting to dark spaces, entrances, and walkways. Motion detector lights can be a good option when they are set to stay on for a while.
* Keep a flashlight by your bed and in other easy to find locations in case the power goes out.
* Use light bulbs that have the highest wattage recommended for the fixture.
About Joyce: Joyce Clark is the Campus Director of Saint Ann Retirement Center, which offers independent and assisted living. She says watching people regain their strength, balance, and health is one of her team’s greatest rewards.
Clark encourages people to be extra careful at home getting in and out of the bathtub, where many people tend to fall. Call Lisa at Saint Ann Retirement Center, (405) 721-0747 Ext #322, if you would like more tips and helpful information.