Besides changes in your lifestyle, such as a better diet and being more active, practical steps to safeguard your home environment will go a long way to prevent falls and broken bones.
Inside Updates to Make
- Use nightlights throughout your home.
- Keep all rooms free from clutter, especially the floors—get rid of small scatter rugs, stacks of old newspapers and magazines and loose cables and cords.
- Keep floor surfaces smooth but not slippery. When entering rooms, be aware of differences in floor levels and thresholds.
- Wear supportive, low-heeled shoes even at home. Avoid walking around in socks, stockings or floppy slippers.
- Check that all carpets and area rugs have skid-proof backing or are tacked to the floor, including carpeting on stairs.
- Keep electrical cords and telephone lines out of walkways.
- Be sure that all stairways are well lit and that stairs have handrails on both sides. Consider placing fluorescent tape on the edges of top and bottom steps.
- Install grab bars on bathroom walls beside tubs, showers, and toilets. If you are unstable on your feet, consider using a plastic chair with a back and nonskid leg tips in the shower.
- Use a non-slip bathmat in the shower or tub.
- Keep a flashlight with extra batteries beside your bed.
- Add ceiling fixtures to rooms lit only by lamps, or install lamps that can be turned on by a switch near the entrance to the room.
- Use at least 100-watt light bulbs in your home.
Outside Steps to Take
- In bad weather, consider using a cane or walker for extra stability
- In winter, wear warm boots with rubber soles for added traction.
- Look carefully at floor surfaces in public buildings. Many floors are made of highly polished marble or tile that can be very slippery. When floors have plastic or carpet runners in place, try to stay on them whenever possible.
- Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack or backpack to leave hands free.
- Stop at curbs to check height before stepping up or down. Be cautious at curbs that have been cut away to allow access for bikes or wheelchairs. The incline may lead to a fall.
More Positive Lifestyle Moves
According to the National Institutes of Health, research has shown that hip protectors can decrease the risk of hip fracture among people who are at high risk for falls. Most hip protectors are washable undergarments that fit over the hips. On each side of the garment is a thin layer of lightweight foam plastic. Hip protectors are typically worn by people who have an unstable stride or posture and by people who tend to fall down (with the main impact near the hip) rather than the more typical fall forward (with the main impact on the hands or knees). However, studies have found that up to one-third of people refused to wear hip protectors or wore them for only limited periods. If this sounds like you, it may be time to rethink your strategy to help preserve your independence.
Another vital lifestyle change if you are a smoker is to quit. Tobacco is toxic to your bones, putting you at higher risk for low bone mass and osteoporosis. Excessive alcohol intake also may be damaging to your bones, and people who drink heavily tend to have more bone loss and fractures due to poor nutrition and an increased risk of falling. On the other hand, moderate drinking may improve bone strength in post-menopausal women.
Senior bone fractures are no joking matter. If you've experienced a break, take the time to create a personal health plan by implementing the ideas in our 5-part series under your doctor's guidance.