For seniors aged 65 and older, falls are the top cause of death due to injury. Falling is also the number one cause of non-fatal injuries in this age group, which can often translate into a threat to independence, as well as overall mobility and safety.
One in four seniors falls at least once every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and one out of five falls among seniors results in a serious injury, such as head injuries, broken bones or internal bleeding.
This is why it's important to do everything possible to minimize the risk of falling for seniors living in apartments on their own.
Falls can be extremely dangerous to anyone, but senior adults are particularly vulnerable. Men are more likely to die as a result of a fall, while women have a greater risk of being seriously injured.
Some of the most common injuries seniors experience as a result of falls are hip fractures, hip lacerations and head trauma. Other injuries that often occur as a result of falls include fractures of the spine, legs, ankles, pelvis, arms and hands.
There are several reasons why seniors are at a particularly high risk of falling. As we age, difficulty with balance and walking can create more risk. The body's balancing capability and lower-body strength begin to weaken, and illnesses like Parkinson's disease can also contribute to an increased fall risk. Those with osteoporosis are especially vulnerable to bone fractures since this disease thins and weakens the bones.
If you or a loved one has fallen, the first thing to remember is not to panic. Using a medical alert device is highly recommended, as it will allow you to easily alert the authorities to send medical assistance.
If you're unable to get up after a fall, don't force yourself to get up. This can cause further injury. If you feel that you might be able to get up, slowly roll over to one side and pull yourself up onto your hands and knees. Use a sturdy piece of furniture or another nearby object for support, and try to get into a seated position.
Stay seated until you're medically treated or until you're positive you'll be able to stand up without falling again. Always consult your doctor after a fall so they can assess you for any injuries.
Make sure you have good lighting both inside and outside the apartment so you can clearly see walkways, entryways and hallways. Create a clear path inside your apartment, moving any furniture out of the way.
Tape your rugs down with double-sided tape on hardwood or vinyl floors so that you won't trip over them and the rugs won't slip out of place. Keep all cords and plugs close to the wall, and tie them together so they don't get in the way of where you need to walk.
If you're able to install one, consider adding a walk-in tub to the bathroom to help you easily get in and out of the bath. (Be sure to ask your landlord before making any major modifications to your apartment.) Install or check handrails on the stairs and in the bathroom, ensuring that they are all securely attached.
Fix any loose or uneven steps, and ask your landlord if they can come to take a look to ensure that all interior and exterior steps are secure. Keep all of your cooking items easily within reach in the kitchen. If you absolutely must use a step stool, make sure it's completely stable before you use it.
Use night lights in the bedroom and hallway and throughout your apartment to help you get around safely during the evening.