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AOTA Offers Tips for Avoiding Falls

To mark the National Council on Aging’s National Falls Prevention Awareness Day—held annually on the first day of fall—Scott A. Trudeau, PhD, OTR/L, Productive Aging and Interprofessional Collaborative Practice Program Manager for AOTA, offers tips for preventing falls in the kitchen, bathroom, and when getting in and out of a vehicle.

According to the National Council on Aging, more than 75% of falls take place inside or in close proximity to the home. In adults over the age of 65, falls are the leading cause of accidental injury and death–and as Trudeau explains in this video, they are avoidable.

Some of Trudeau’s tips:

  1. In the kitchen, move regularly used items to easy-to-reach places such as the lowest shelves to avoid using a stepstool. Ask a relative or friend to rotate seasonal items so the current ones are neat the front of cabinets and shelves. Make sure appliances are easy to access and do not require bending or awkward movements. Immediately clean up spills to prevent slipping.
  2. In the bathroom, do not just install grab bars. Consider consulting with an occupational therapist who can recommend the proper places and heights to install grab bars that fit your specific physical and visual needs. Do not rely on items in the bathroom such as a sink or towel bars for balance, as these are not designed to bear weight.
  3. Increase lighting in and around your home. Outside, make sure entryways are properly lit so you can see where you’re stepping. Motion-activated lights enhance security while providing adequate light in the dark. Immediately replace burned out light bulbs (ask someone to help if you aren’t completely stable when doing so), both in and outside the home. In the bedroom, have lights easily accessible from the doorway and the bed to avoid stumbling across the room to the nearest switch.
  4. Whether a driver or passenger, consider adaptive gadgets such as removable grab bars, leg lifts, and cushions to make easing in and out of the car safer. An occupational therapist can help with this, too.

“Points of transition, such as going from sitting to standing, bending or reaching, and getting in and out of a vehicle are times when older adults have the greatest potential risk of falling,” says Trudeau, explaining that maintaining two arms and one leg, or two legs and one arm can increase safety . “Maintaining a tripod by having at least three points of contact with a steady surface while in transition can prevent most falls.”

For more tips to promote safe aging in place, visit http://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Patients-Clients/Adults.aspx.