“I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!”

By Margie Golankiewicz, Physical Therapist

We’ve all seen the commercial for the medical alert service that depicts a person who has fallen and does not have the ability to get up by themselves…a terrifying situation. Falls among older adults is a huge healthcare problem and, unfortunately, it is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Falls for adults age 65 and older are the leading cause of injury death
  • In 2009, 2.2 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments
  • Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls (over 90% of hip fractures are caused by falls)
  • Many people who fall subsequently develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities resulting in loss of physical fitness, poor coordination or depression, thus increasing their risk of falling again

These are just a few statistics representing the “bad news”. The “good news” is that many falls are preventable. Following is a checklist you may use to fix hazards in your home and thus decrease your risk of falling.

Suggestions To Reduce Falls


  • Check floors in every room
  • Move furniture so that your path is clear
  • Tape or coil cords and wires next to the wall so you can’t trip over them
  • Don’t use extension cords. Have an electrician put in another outlet
  • Remove saddles or flatten uneven surfaces between rooms

Stairs and Steps

  • Check the stairs both inside and outside of your home
  • Keep the stairs free of all clutter
  • Fix broken and uneven steps
  • Have handrails put in all of your staircases. Make sure the handrails are on both sides of the stairs and are as long as the stairs
  • If you have carpeting, make sure it is firmly attached to each step. Alternatively, remove the carpeting and attach non-slip rubber treads on the stairs
  • Put lights in all of your staircases. If needed, have an electrician put a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairs

Bathrooms & Kitchens

  • These can be dangerous places. Be extra careful
  • Beware of water on the floor and clean up all spills as soon as they occur


  • Check all of your bedrooms
  • Place a lamp close to the bed where it is easy to reach
  • Put a night-light so you can see where you are walking. Some night-lights go on by themselves after dark

General Safety Tips

  • Wear sturdy shoes with thin, non-slip soles. Avoid slippers and shoes with no backs
  • Improve the lighting in your home. Use brighter light bulbs (at least 60 watts). Use lampshades or frosted bulbs to reduce glare
  • Be careful around pets
  • Keep emergency numbers in large print near the phone or have them programmed into your speed dial
  • Put a phone near the floor in case you fall and cannot get up
  • Think about wearing an alarm device that will help in case you fall and cannot get up

Staying Healthy

  • Have your vision checked at least once a year by an eye doctor. Poor vision can increase your risk of falls
  • Have your doctor or pharmacist look at all of the medicine you take, even over-the-counter medication. Some medicine can make you sleepy or dizzy or blur your vision which can lead to a fall.

In addition to using the household checklist provided, if you would like a fall risk assessment performed by a Physical Therapist then don’t hesitate to contact us. We can develop a specific exercise program of Balance and Fall Prevention Training for you.

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