Mayo Clinic: My grandmother, who is 82, has no major health
issues, but sheís become rather weak and frail over the past
several years, and her balance isnít very good. Several
weeks ago, she fell in her bathroom. Although her injuries
were minor, my family is worried. Is there something we can do
to help keep her from falling again?
wise to be concerned about your grandmotherís safety. Falls
are the leading cause of injuries for older Americans. Falls
not only threaten seniorsí safety, but also their
conversation with your grandmother is a worthwhile place to
begin. She may fear falling, which can decrease her mobility
within the home and participation in her community. And even
though your grandmother doesnít have any significant health
concerns, it still would be a good idea for her to visit her
doctor. Itís possible that her weakness and loss of balance
could signal an underlying medical condition.
physical exam and a discussion with her doctor about her
overall health could reveal specific fall risk factors or a
need for health care services, such as physical therapy. A
physical therapist can recommend exercises that would be
helpful to her. Even gentle, low-impact activities can improve
strength, balance, endurance, flexibility and coordination. A
physical therapist also can determine if a walker or cane
could provide safer mobility.
grandmotherís doctor also should review any medications sheís
taking to make sure those medications donít have side
effects that might contribute to a risk of falling. Review
calcium and vitamin D requirements for optimum bone health.
Annual vision and hearing checks are important as well.
your grandmother prevent another fall, take a close look at
the environment within her home to ensure itís safe. Taking
basic steps to make a home safer can go a long way toward
lowering the risk of falls. That includes eliminating tripping
hazards by removing boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and
phone cords from walkways. Take coffee tables, magazine racks,
plant stands and coat racks out of high-traffic areas. Secure
loose rugs with double-faced tape or a slip-resistant backing
ó or simply remove the rugs. Repair any loose floorboards or
carpeting. Store clothing, dishes, food and other frequently
used items within easy reach.
within the home also can make a big difference. Along with
keeping her home well-lit during the day, your grandmother
could put nightlights in her bedroom, bathroom and hallways,
and place a lamp close to her bed. You may want to consider
installing glow-in-the-dark or illuminated light switches, so
they are easy to find in low light. Pathways to those switches
should be clear of tripping hazards.
you mention that weakness and balance are issues for your
grandmother, make sure her home is well-suited for easy
mobility. For example, there should be handrails on both sides
of the stairways and nonslip treads on steps made of wood or
other slick surfaces.
bathroom can be a particularly risky area, but making a few
adjustments can help. A raised toilet seat or a toilet with
armrests can make it easier to get up and down without losing
balance. In the shower or tub, installing nonslip mats, grab
bars, a sturdy plastic seat and a handheld shower nozzle to
use while sitting down can make it less likely your
grandmother will slip and fall while bathing.
communities now have fall prevention programs specifically
designed to help seniors reduce their risk of falling. Often
offered as group classes, these programs usually focus on
education, exercise, balance and fitness. It sounds like your
grandmother could benefit from such a program. To find out if
there is one in your area, ask your grandmotherís doctor, or
contact your local Area Agency on Aging for more information.