take action elderly fall-proof blog

Each month we will offer a list of action ideas so you can defend, honor, and celebrate Life in your churches and communities on our Take Action page. This month, we are looking at making homes fall-proof.

“Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” You knew exactly what I’m referencing, right? We’ve all seen that commercial at least a dozen times with different actors and actresses portraying the beleaguered elderly people. Sadly, the commercial has become a bit of a joke, with the laughable over-the-top delivery and incongruous contrast between the plight of the aged person and the seemingly sunny or safe settings.

But there is very little funny about an elderly person falling at home. According to the CDC, one out of four elderly people fall each year, and one out of five falls causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or head injuries. Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized due to a fall injury, and 300,000 are hospitalized for hip fractures. And beyond the injury or trauma caused by a fall is the serious worry about falling while alone. How long will it be, especially if an elderly person still lives in his or her home without regular care or visitors, before help can arrive?

While this is normally when the commercial jumps to selling an alarm or help signaling product (which may be beneficial in some cases), we are going to look at a much simpler action idea—making an elderly person’s home fall-proof! Falls are often caused due to common hazards—clutter, throw rugs, loose cords, uneven steps, and unsteady handrails. There are a number of helpful checklists that you can use to either fall-proof your home or to make a loved one’s home safe. While there are factors that make an elderly person more prone to falling, such as certain medications, vision problems, foot pain, or Vitamin D deficiency, taking simple, practical steps, such as installing grab bars inside or outside showers or tubs, setting up nightlights, or moving pantry items from higher cabinets to lower ones can prevent a dangerous situation. So, check in with aging and elderly family members, friends, or church members. Talk to them about some practical ideas to keep them safe, upright, and out of the hospital. I suspect they would much rather laugh at the cheesy commercial than experience it for themselves.

Action Ideas

  • Use one of the checklists noted and fall-proof a loved one’s home.
  • If an elderly person in your congregation doesn’t have family nearby, talk to them about how to fall-proof their homes.  Organize a group from your church to visit and make necessary changes.
  • Organize a church program talking about the practical steps of making houses fall-proof.  Send checklists home with those who attend.  AFL’s Embrace the Journey also talks about preventing falls, as well as other practical, end of life planning topics.