Up to 73% of survivors experience a fall one year after their stroke, according to a 2019 Cochrane Review. Falls can happen for a number of reasons after a stroke. You may be dealing with the fear of falling, dizziness, balance issues, decreased movement and strength, visual changes, cognitive issues, or fatigue.
While the fear of falling is the number one predictor of falls, there are many things you do to reduce your risk.
Clear clutter and cords from home walkways.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to actually take the time and look at your home with fresh eyes.
Is your phone charger laying in the walkway by your bed? Is there a lamp cord in the living room walkway? Are there books or knick-knacks on the floor in the hallway?
Make sure you clear out anywhere you need to walk, especially the path you take to the bathroom at night.
Throw out the throw rugs.
Rugs that aren’t securely tacked down are really easy to trip over. The tip of your toe or assistive device can catch on them quickly.
If you have a large throw rug you don’t want to get rid of, use double-sided carpet tape to firmly secure the edges to the floor.
Rearrange items in cabinets.
Place food items, dishes, or pots/pans at a height that you can safely reach. Sometimes reaching for items that are too low or too high can cause us to lose our balance.
You can also rearrange items in your bathroom to be at a more reachable height: towels, hairdryers, makeup, toothpaste, etc.
Get someone to help you with this if you have balance, dizziness, or vision changes.
Install grab bars in the bathroom.
Most falls in the home happen in the bathroom. This is likely due to having the floor that’s most likely to be wet.
Installing grab bars by the commode and/or in the shower can give you more stability during transfers. I’ll be honest, though. I know some of you are thinking about those suction-cup grab bars. If you can, stay away from those.
They have an unfortunate habit of unsticking from their surfaces. However, if that’s your only option, something is better than nothing! Just test them before putting trying to transfer with them.
Use a seat or tub transfer bench to shower.
Using a seat or bench can be super helpful if you get fatigued while showering or deal with balance, movement, and perceptual issues.
If you have a tub/shower combo in your home, a tub transfer bench could be helpful. It overhangs the side of the tub and allows you to not have to step over the side.
They’re not the most glamourous looking devices, but at the end of the day, they can help you get clean safely!
Put down non-skid mats or strips.
Placing a non-skid mat or strips in the shower and on the bathroom floor can be helpful to reduce falls even when the floor is wet.
I’ve had clients want to keep bathroom rugs or put towels on the floor to sop up water, but towels and rugs move! It’s better if you can use something specifically non-skid to ensure safety.
Install a higher toilet or get an add-on raised commode seat.
“Nose over toes” can be super hard when getting off of a low toilet seat.
If you’re still having trouble with transitioning from sitting to standing, installing a higher toilet seat or adding a raised commode seat can make those transitions much easier. Combine that with a grab bar close to the commode and you’re golden!
Don’t carry big items up and down stairs.
Carrying big items, like a laundry basket, up and down stairs can be risky. If you have handrails available, always use them.
You can also think about switching up your laundry basket to a laundry bag that you could more carefully carry over your shoulder.
If you don’t have handrails installed, it would be worth asking someone handy to install some.
Wear appropriate shoes or non-skid socks.
I know this is another obvious tip, but it’s important! Wear shoes with a back and non-slip soles.
Please, for the love of all that is good, don’t wear flip flops!
If you don’t like to wear shoes in the house, get some of those cute, fuzzy socks with non-skid bottoms. So many people have wood, vinyl, or tile floors nowadays aka the most slippery floor types! Make sure to wear these shoes or non-skid socks in the house.
Wear your glasses.
Glasses or contacts help us to see details in our environment that we would likely otherwise miss without them. They can help us see things in our way or items that we could potentially trip over.
Visual changes, like field cuts, double vision, or blurry vision, are also possible symptoms of certain types of strokes. If you’ve been given special glasses or prisms to wear, make sure you wear them at home, too.
Use a reacher.
For some stroke survivors, especially young survivors, there is a lot of stigma around using adaptive equipment.
But if you have vertigo or dizziness with changes in position as a result of your stroke, a reacher (or grabber) can help you still get what you need with minimal positional changes.
Put nightlights in your bedroom and bathroom.
Bring back the nightlights!
They will literally help light your walkway from the bed to the bathroom, which is especially important when you wake up groggy in the middle of the night.
There are motion-activated nightlights that won’t keep you up while you’re in bed. They just turn on when they detect movement!
Know where your animals are before walking.
Pets. We love them so much, but they love to get under our feet.
Whether you’re walking with or without an assistive device, like a walker, keep an eye out for where your pets are before making a trek in the house.
Keep your phone in your pocket.
This is a preventative measure for those “just-in-case” moments.
If you fall and can’t get up, having your phone in an easily accessible pocket means that you can call care partners or emergency services right away.
Physical activity remains one of the best ways to reduce the number of falls in stroke survivors.
Exercise can help improve balance, strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, and improve range of motion. This can lead to better stability when walking.
Always make sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Let me know what fall prevention strategies have been successful for you!