Simple home adjustments can help prevent falls - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Simple home adjustments can help prevent falls

Many falls are preventable with a few adjustments to your home. Many falls are preventable with a few adjustments to your home.

It's becoming recognized as a public health issue, slips and spills among older adults.  Millions of older Americans will fall at least one time in their life.  According to the Center for Disease Control, each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. That can lead to hospitalizations and even death.  Many of those falls are preventable with a few adjustments to your home.

"It is becoming recognized as a public health issue," says Tricia Keane, an occupational therapist at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City.  "It's the second leading cause of injury deaths in Iowa and the highest cause for hospitalizations and emergency rooms visits."

Falls are a problem and several risk factors make a person more likely to get hurt.  Those include weak muscles, poor balance, poor vision, medications, and the home environment.  Those slips and spills are largely preventable.

"It all starts with the communication, a discussion, and finding out what's leading to those and encourage the person to talk to their healthcare provider about it and see if they need to adjust their medications or if they need to have some adaptations made in their home," says Keane.

That's where occupational therapist Shelly Kitrell comes in.  She talks to her patients at Mercy about making small changes to their homes to prevent falls.  She suggests starting with the bathroom.

"The bathroom is the leading cause of falls so focus on the bathroom," says Kitrell.
She says to put a chair in the shower.  Install grab bars and railings and make sure to use them correctly.

"Sit down first and then put your legs in and you have less chance of falling and on the way out you are just going to reverse it and grab onto your grab bar and come on up to standing," says Kitrell.

Adding a raised toilet seat and bars can help prevent falls.  She also suggests to watch where mirrors and picture frames are placed.  Light can cause a glare and make it so a person can't see.

"Lighting is very important," says Kitrell.  "We have to watch out for glare.  Shades will help with glare or blinds."

In the bedroom and kitchen, contrasting colors can help.

"This is a table top that has a little bit of a different color lip around it to contrast the wood," says Kitrell.

And different colored light switches can make it easier to get around.

Kitrell says it's important to keep things at an eye level so you don't have to strain to reach them.

"As we age, our muscles are not so strong," says Kitrell.  "Instead of reaching way up, reaching here would be a lot better level."

Kitrell says these small changes aren't too expensive and can be done pretty easily.  They could help prevent a fall.

Also, Siouxland Aging Services offers several workshops for residents about fall prevention and balance for residents in Cherokee, Ida, Monona, Plymouth, and Woodbury counties.  Go to for more information.


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