Falls are the leading cause of injuries for older Americans and can lead to the loss of independence. Fortunately, falls are preventable. At Cone Health, each patient goes through a risk assessment so that their care team can put the appropriate interventions in place during their stay. Some of the most common things used to prevent falls are:
- Non-skid socks.
- Gate belts – the care team holds on to this belt to help steady a patient and guide them.
- Assistance devices – walkers and canes can really help patients stay steady and mobile.
Many of the ways that hospitals prevent falls are the same ways to stay safe at home. A few examples of how to prevent falls at home include:
- Clearing pathways. Keep the most commonly tread pathways clear of tripping hazards.
- Removing loose rugs from the floor. Many falls are caused by someone tripping on a rug.
- Keeping pathways well-lit. It’s easy to trip on something you can’t see.
Family members and loved ones can help older adults maintain independence by looking for ways to remove fall hazards in the home and encouraging them to seek help for tasks that might put them at risk.
Fear of falling is common but can lead to more falls when it stops you from practicing prevention measures. People who are afraid of falling may try to move less and less to avoid an injury, leading to weaker muscles and an increase in fall risk rather than a decrease. Mobility and consistent activity are not only part of a healthy lifestyle, but help you maintain the balance and strength that you need as you get older.
Preventing falls can also be as simple as learning to ask for help when you aren’t sure or are feeling unsteady. In the hospital, patients have a call bell at their bedside that they are encouraged to use to ask for help. One of the most common ways we see falls happen is when people are trying to get out of bed by themselves.
For many adults, it can feel like an admission of weakness to ask for help at home or even in the hospital, but by accepting help, individuals can avoid an injury that would further limit their independence.
If you are concerned about falls, talk to your primary care provider. They can offer advice and guide you to local support services that can help you or your loved one age well.
Allyson Kirkman is a clinical nurse educator at Cone Health. She received her Bachelor of Science in nursing and her Master of Science in nursing and education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Hannah Steele is a nurse with the Cone Health Moses Cone Memorial Hospital emergency department. She received her Bachelor of Science in nursing at Gardner Webb University.