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Falls and Prevention for Seniors

Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among the elderly. One out of every three people over the age of 65 will experience a fall.

Be careful when going outside during winter weather. Wear safe, sturdy shoes or boots with thin, non-slip soles. Make sure to keep porches, sidewalks and driveways free of ice and snow. Hold onto railings when going up and down steps. If possible, do errands during daylight hours when it is easier to see slippery spots. If you must be out at night, take a flashlight to illuminate walking surfaces.

Use this checklist from the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey to identify potential improvements for your home and your life.

My Home

Stairways, Hallways and Entrances

  • All stairs and stair coverings are in good repair.
  • Handrails are sturdy and run the full length of the stairs.
  • All stairways are well lit. I can clearly see the outline of each step going down.
  • Hallways and entrances are well lit indoors and out.
  • Stairways, hallways and entrances are kept clear and free of clutter.
  • Sidewalks and walkways are level and free of cracks or holes.
  • Pathways and steps are free of ice, snow, newspapers and leaves.
  • Bathrooms

    • Tubs and showers have a non-skid mat, decals, abrasive strips or non-slip surface.
    • Sturdy grab bars or handrails are installed by the toilet and in tubs and showers.
    • Tub seat, hand-held shower and/or raised toilet seat with arms are used if needed.
    • Bathroom rugs have non-skid backing. Bathroom floors have a non-slip surface.


    • I keep a working flashlight and telephone by the bed.
    • There is a light switch or lamp within reach of the bed.
    • The bed is right at the proper height to allow easy access.

    Living Areas

    • Papers, magazines, books, shoes and boxes are kept off the floor.
    • I can turn on the light in each room without having to walk through dark areas.
    • Nightlights are used, especially between the bed and bathroom.
    • Cords and wires are not stretched across pathways or under rugs.
    • Carpet, tile and floorboards lie flat and are in good repair.
    • I do not use unsecured mats or loose rugs in or around my home.
    • Area rugs have non-slip backing or are secured with double-sided tape on all sides.
    • Furniture is arranged to prevent tripping and pathways are kept clear.
    • Work and storage areas are organized so they are within easy reach.
    • There is always a phone within easy reach. Emergency numbers are posted.
    • I always use a sturdy stepstool or ladder to reach high places - NEVER a chair.
    • I never climb a stepstool or ladder when I am alone.
    • Spills are wiped up immediately to prevent slipping.

    My Lifestyle

    Getting Around

    • I wear supportive, low-heeled, non-slip shoes - even at home.
    • In wet weather, I wear non-slip boots or rubbers and avoid slippery surfaces.
    • I pay attention to floors in public buildings, especially if they are waxed or wet.
    • I am always aware of traffic and traffic signals when crossing the street.
    • I am a defensive walker, watching for traffic, bicycles and rollerbladers.
    • When getting out of a vehicle, I take my time, especially if the ground is uneven.
    • If recommended by my health care provider, I use my cane, walker or walking stick.
    • I plan outings to allow plenty of time - I never rush.
    • I plan ahead so that I do not go out during rush hour, darkness or bad weather.


    • My vision and hearing have been checked within the past year.
    • I take my reading glasses off while I am not reading.
    • I have reviewed my medications with my doctor and have talked about possible side effects or interactions.
    • My medications are clearly labeled and I take them as prescribed.
    • I eat nutritious, well balanced meals with adequate calcium and vitamin D.
    • To maintain strength and balance, I exercise regularly (with doctor's approval).
    • To avoid negative effects on my judgment, I moderate my alcohol consumption.
    • I engage in activities that stimulate my mind and keep my brain active and supple.

    In General

    • I have an answering machine or portable phone - I do not rush to answer the phone.
    • I have arranged for daily contact with a friend or family member.
    • I ask for assistance with heavy work.
    • I keep an eye out for dangers and hazards.
    • I am careful not to get up too quickly, especially after lying down, resting or eating.
    • I wear sunglasses on sunny days to cut down the glare and protect my eyes.
    • I discourage my pets from sleeping in pathways or underfoot.
    • Visiting children are taught to pick up toys from the floor, stairs or hallways.

    A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates more than one third of adults age 65 years and older fall each year, with a majority of these falls occurring in the home.

    Reprinted by permission of the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey


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