Preventing Falls

Each year about one-third of all people over age 65 will fall. Many of these falls result in broken bones. Some common causes of falls include outdoor and indoor hazards. Certain lifestyle behaviors can also increase your chances of falling.

Outdoor Safety Tips

Try the following tips to help prevent falls when you are outside:

  • Wear low-heeled shoes with rubber soles for more solid footing (traction), and wear warm boots in winter.
  • Use hand rails as you go up and down steps and on escalators.
  • If sidewalks look slippery, walk in the grass for more solid footing.
  • In winter, carry a small bag of rock salt or kosher salt in your pocket or car. You can then sprinkle the salt or kitty litter on sidewalks or streets that are slippery.
  • Look carefully at floor surfaces in public buildings. Floors made of highly polished marble or tile can be very slippery. When these surfaces are wet, they may become dangerous. When floors have plastic or carpet runners in place, stay on them whenever possible.
  • Keep your porch, deck, walkways and driveway free of leaves, snow, trash or clutter. Also keep them in good repair. Cover porch steps with a gritty, weather-proof paint and install handrails on both sides.
  • Turn on the light outside your front door before leaving your home in the early evening so that you have outdoor light when you return after dark.
  • Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack or a backpack purse to leave your hands free.
  • Use a walker or cane as needed.
  • Find out about community services that can provide help, such as 24-hour pharmacies and grocery stores that take orders by phone or internet and deliver, especially in poor weather.
  • Stop at curbs and check the height before stepping up or down. Be careful at curbs that have been cut away to allow access for bikes or wheelchairs. The incline may lead to a fall.
  • Consider wearing hip protectors or hip pads for added protection should you fall.

Indoor Safety Tips: Fall-Proofing Your Home

Try the following tips to help prevent falls when you are inside your home:

Around the House

  • Place items you use most often within easy reach. This keeps you from having to do a lot of bending and stooping.
  • Use assistive devices to help avoid strain or injury. For example, use a long-handled grasping device to pick up items without bending or reaching. Use a pushcart to move heavy or hot items from the stove or countertop to the table.
  • If you must use a stepstool, use a sturdy one with a handrail and wide steps.
  • If you live alone, consider wearing a personal emergency response system (PERS). Also consider having a cordless telephone or cell phone to take from room to room so you can call for help if you fall.

Floors

  • Remove all loose wires, cords and throw rugs.
  • Keep floors free of clutter.
  • Be sure all carpets and area rugs have skid-proof backing or are tacked to the floor.
  • Do not use slippery wax on bare floors.
  • Keep furniture in its usual place.

Bathrooms

  • Install grab bars on the bathroom walls beside the tub, shower and toilet.
  • Use a non-skid rubber mat in the shower or tub.
  • If you are unsteady on your feet, you may want to use a plastic chair with a back and non-skid legs in the shower or tub and use a handheld showerhead to bathe.

Kitchen

  • Use non-skid mats or rugs on the floor near the stove and sink.
  • Clean up spills as soon as they happen (in the kitchen and anywhere in the home).

Bedroom

  • Place light switches within reach of your bed and a night light between the bedroom and bathroom.
  • Get up slowly from sitting or lying down since this may cause dizziness.
  • Keep a flashlight with fresh batteries beside your bed.

Stairs

  • Keep stairwells well lit, with light switches at the top and the bottom.
  • Install sturdy handrails on both sides.
  • Mark the top and bottom steps with bright tape.
  • Make sure carpeting is secure.
  • In addition to indoor and outdoor hazards, certain lifestyle behaviors can make a person more likely to fall. Here are some lifestyle tips to help you:
  • Be careful about drinking alcohol. Alcohol slows reflexes and may cause confusion, dizziness or disorientation. Too much alcohol can also cause bone loss.
  • If you are in a hurry, slow down. Accidents are more likely to happen when you rush.
  • Stay alert and focused when in public places.
  • Remember to wear appropriate shoes both indoors and out.
  • Exercise and eat healthy at every age. A healthy diet includes having a well-balanced diet that contains the recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D.

If you have osteoporosis, you can take steps inside and outside your home and in your daily routine to prevent falls. Taking these steps can help you enjoy an active and healthy life.

Related

Keeping Your Balance

Balance is very important for people with osteoporosis. Your eyes, ears, muscles and joints all play an important role in maintaining your balance and preventing broken bones. Medical conditions and medicines can also affect balance and your risk of falling.

Recovering from Falls

Even with your best efforts to protect your bones, it’s still possible to break a bone. People most often break bones in the spine, hip or wrist. Regardless of the bone you break, regaining strength and returning to daily activities takes time.

Exercise for Strong Bones

There are two types of exercises that are important for building and maintaining bone density: weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Learn about each type of exercise and how you can incorporate both into your exercise routine.