Physical Therapists Offer Home Safety Tips to Avoid Falls

National observance day aims to increase public awareness about how to avoid and reduce falls among older adults.

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ALEXANDRIA, VA, September 20, 2010 — As the nation observes the third annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day, September 23, the American Physical Therapy Association is urging older adults to take a moment to complete a room-by-room checklist to identify and repair possible fall hazards in their homes and begin an exercise plan to reduce chances of falling and risk of injury.

"It's critical that seniors remain active in and outside their homes to help reduce their risk of falling," says APTA spokesperson Patrice Winter, PT, MPT. "However, hazards in the home are one of the leading causes of falls in older adults. Removing throw rugs, rerouting electrical cords, and installing handrails are simple ways in which one can make a home safer. Furthermore, an older adult's risk of falling can be decreased through an individualized exercise program, designed by a physical therapist, to improve his or her strength, mobility, and balance."

APTA member Diane Nichols, PT, explains how a physical therapist can help seniors and/or their caregivers address home hazards to avoid falls in the home in this video.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of adults ages 65 and older fall each year in the United States. Falls are the leading cause of deaths due to injuries and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma for the aging population.1 

In addition to addressing home safety and exercise, older adults should ask all health care providers to review their medicines -- both prescription and over-the counter -- to reduce side effects and interactions. They should also have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year.

Finally, older adults who use walking aids should be properly assessed and fitted by a physical therapist to avoid fall-related injuries. APTA's tip sheet on using walkers and canes suggests:

  • The walker or cane should be about the height of your wrists when your arms are at your sides.
  • When using a walker, your arms should be slightly bent while holding on, but you shouldn't have to bend forward at the waist to reach it.
  • Periodically check the rubber tips at the bottom of the cane or walker. Be sure to replace them if they are uneven or worn through.

"Many older adults live in fear of falling and become more sedentary over the years," Winter says. "When, in fact, they should be seeking out ways to become more active to maintain their mobility."

For more information about how to avoid falls in the elderly and other balance-related conditions, click here.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 74,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy nationwide. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical therapist in your area at Consumers are encouraged to follow us on Twitter (@moveforwardpt) and Facebook.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Falls among older adults: An overview. Accessed at on September 16, 2010.