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How to senior-proof your home to help prevent falls

Senior-proof your home to prevent falls
Tips to senior-proof your home to prevent falls 02:36

About one out of four adults age 65 or over will get injured in a fall each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Many of these accidents will occur in their own homes.

According to CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook, simple fixes around the home can help prevent such falls without breaking the bank.

Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal and fatal injuries in elderly adults. In 2017, emergency departments treated 3 million injuries from falling in older adults, including cuts, hip fractures and head trauma. More than 800,000 patients were hospitalized.

While younger people may recover quickly from a fall, tripping can significantly impact quality of life for seniors and increase their odds of early death. Falls also create phobias of further accidents, which can cause some to be less likely to exercise and be active.

One of the areas where a lot of accidents occur in is the bathroom. David McSwigan, a physical therapist who performs home safety evaluations, told Dr. LaPook that creating a tub cut-out — removing a lower area on the side of the tub — could make it easier for seniors to get in and out of the shower. Homes can also be equipped with a raised toilet seat with an arm rest to help older adults balance themselves when using the toilet.

"It's much more economical than re-doing or renovating your whole bathroom," McSwigan pointed out.

Another area of danger is the raised part of the floor under the doorjamb, what's known as a door saddle. It's a decoration that may cause a person to trip. Removing the door saddle or replacing it with a smaller transition strip could prevent this potential accident.

Stairs can also present a hazard. All stairs should have banisters to help with balance, and there should never be clutter on the steps. 

Decorative rugs may look nice, but they are easy to trip over. Remove all rugs, especially near the base of the stairs, McSwigan recommends.

The CDC adds that regular exercise can improve leg strength and balance in seniors. Older adults should also get their eyesight checked at least once a year, and use single vision lenses when they are walking. Doctors and pharmacists should also review what medications seniors are taking in order to warn them about treatments that might make them dizzy or drowsy.

The CDC has more information on preventing senior falls.

This is an updated version of a story originally published on December 23, 2013.

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