5 Stair Safety Tips for Seniors

As we age, our bodies naturally get tired and lose some of the strength they once had. Everyday physical tasks like bending down to pick something up off the floor or getting out of bed can become more difficult, and going up and down stairs can become especially difficult.

Stair safety risks in older adults

Navigating stairs requires both strength and balance. Without the right abilities, seniors can fall. One in four older adults fall each year resulting in about 3 million people being treated in emergency departments. While it’s true that many falls do not cause injuries, one in five can cause severe damage such as a broken bone or head injury. Falls on the stairs can have a higher risk for severe injury.

Tips for promoting stair safety and preventing accidents and injury

At Ageility, physical therapists and occupational therapists utilize our Fall Prevention Program to reduce fall risks. Strategies include exercise, balance work, functional training, as well as environmental assessments to prevent older adults from suffering a fall—especially when it comes to stairs. Check out these helpful tips below on how to navigate stairs safely and securely.

  1. Use sturdy railings
    A railing is like a best friend—solid, helps you reach new heights, and is always there to support you. When going up and down stairs it’s important to hold on tight to a railing to prevent a slip or fall that could result in a severe injury. Make sure to double check a railing to make sure it’s sturdy before getting on the stairs. And remember there’s no rush—take your time going up and down stairs.
  2. Turn on the lights
    Whether your stairs are inside or outside make sure you have a light guiding your way. Always turn on a light switch if available, but if it’s not most smartphones have a flashlight feature that can be handy in a pinch. There are also lots of light installation options such as motion sensor lights that turn on automatically right when you walk in their line of sight.
  3. Keep stairs free of clutter
    Let’s be honest, we all use parts of our staircase as temporary storage, but stairs have a tough time serving their purpose when you can’t step on them—make sure there are no obstacles in your way on the stairs or at the top or bottom such as a loose rug or mat.
  4. Make sure repairs are done if needed
    Stairs, like any part of a home, can fall into disrepair overtime. If you notice your steps feel loose or are uneven, make sure you get them fixed. Senior living communities have regular maintenance done on their buildings, but it’s always helpful to report any damage. Don’t forget to ask about having tread put on stair steps to add an extra layer of safety.
  5. Check that your outside stairs and steps are free of ice, snow, and other debris
    Just like keeping your inside stairs free of clutter, it’s important to make sure your stairs outside are free of anything in the way. Snow, tree branches, or leaves can be common culprits that will prevent you from navigating stairs safely. Make sure stairs in your community are shoveled and cleaned off.

Winter fall prevention tips for seasonal stair safety

For those living in areas that can get snowy and icy it’s best to avoid going outdoors during a snowstorm to prevent the possibility of slipping and falling. If you must go out, use footwear with strong traction to help keep you stable on slippery surfaces. Spikeless ice and snow shoe grippers can be attached to any pair of shoes. Look for them at your local sporting goods store. If you use a cane, an ice gripper tip can help penetrate ice to give you a more firm grip. Ice grip tips can be found online.

Prevent falls with Ageility

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and fitness at Ageility can make you feel more safe and confident one step at a time. To learn more about Ageility’s physical therapy services, contact Ageility at >[email protected] for more info or search for an Ageility location near you.

When Home Health Isn’t Enough to Reduce Rehospitalizations

A bad fall can happen to anyone. Just one wrong step can lead to a devastating injury that requires a trip to the hospital, especially for older adults. In fact, one out of every four seniors fall every year, leading to about 800,000 hospitalizations annually. After being discharged, fall-related injuries are also the third most common cause of hospital readmission for older adults, according to a 2019 study.

The good news for senior living communities is that 20-30% of older adult falls in long-term care facilities are preventable. A major factor is whether the community offers a strong continuum of care from home health to outpatient rehab. Home health alone can help residents get back on their feet, but fall risk can still be high without ongoing therapy. That’s why an experienced physical therapy partner who offers a full continuum of care is essential to helping residents stay on their feet and in their community for as long as possible.

“Home health is great, but it often isn’t enough,” says Michel Weaver, vice president of Ageility Physical Therapy Solutions. “An outpatient plan of care following a home health episode of care brings an individual a more durable therapy outcome.”

The Missing Link in the Continuum of Care? Outpatient Rehab

Many senior living communities have multiple home health partners who provide skilled nursing care. Once a resident’s medical needs are addressed, though, outpatient rehab is key to finishing the recovery process so the resident can fully reengage with their lifestyle. If outpatient rehab isn’t available, residents can remain at a high risk of falls and ending up back in the hospital.

That gap in a community’s continuum of care is where Ageility’s full range of therapy services—including outpatient rehab—fits right in. The results speak for themselves. Communities who have partnered with Ageility have seen a 36% reduced rate of falls. That means fewer residents returning to the hospital and more living life to the fullest in their community.

Here’s what a resident’s journey to full recovery might look like with Ageility:

  1. The resident is discharged from the hospital after a hip fracture and returns to the community requiring acute nursing care.
  2. Ageility’s licensed therapists provide initial therapy while nursing care is provided until the resident reaches a stable level of health.
  3. The same Ageility team of therapists then provides outpatient therapy until the resident reaches their best possible potential.
  4. The resident may then engage with Ageility’s fitness program to continue to build strength and conditioning and maintain their independence for as long as possible.

“You want that same therapist who’s going to know the residents and be able to pull them through the full continuum of care,” says Grace Davenport, Ageility’s Eastern Divisional Director of Rehabilitation. “The goal is partnering with the communities on what the best route to recovery is for each individual resident.”

An On-Site Partner Who Knows Your Residents

We don’t just partner with communities. We’re also on-site, which means we get to know your residents and are there through every step of their recovery. Getting set up is easy. Our fully equipped clinics can be up and running in the community within 60 days. Set up itself can be done in one day with little to no help needed from your team thanks to our white glove service. As a certified Medicare provider, Ageility also takes care of insurance billing and recruitment, so you have more time to spend with residents.

Residents also benefit. With clinics located inside the community, residents can see a therapist whenever they need whether they’re recovering from an accident or just want to be more active. “The Ageility clinic itself is also a valuable amenity for people considering moving into a senior living community,” says Weaver.

Growing Your Competitive Advantage

A strong continuum of care requires collaboration. When communities partner with Ageility, residents achieve the best results thanks to a therapy team that’s there for every step of the recovery process. As people age, the risks of illness and fall-related injuries grows. A full continuum of care provider like Ageility reduces that risk—and grows your competitive advantage—by guiding residents from home health to outpatient rehab to full recovery, helping them stay out of the hospital and in the community they call home.

“Our outcomes are about people being engaged in whatever is meaningful in their lives,” says Weaver. “By having a continuum of care right there within your community, you have a solid partner who’s there to help every resident reach their full potential.”

To learn more about how Ageility can partner with your home health provider to create a full continuum of care in your community and reduce rehospitalizations, contact [email protected] for more info or search for an Ageility location near you.

Blended Balance Signature Fitness

A balance program for older adults

Maintaining a sense of balance while standing and walking becomes harder as we age and can raise the risk of falling. Degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s can compromise balance, too. Ageility’s Blended Balance Signature Fitness Program is designed to help older individuals regain their sense of balance and build back strength to live safer, healthier lives.

What is Blended Balance?

Our Blended Balance Signature Fitness Program is part of an integrated approach to fall intervention and prevention. It’s a 12-week, multimodal program that combines balance assessments with tai chi, yoga, balance training exercises and resistance training. Blended Balance is available to anyone wanting to improve their balance; Ageility therapists may also recommend Blended Balance following a course of therapy.

How does Blended Balance work?

The program closely follows balance recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine. Blended Balance combines multicomponent programming to include balance, strength, power, flexibility and functional training for older adults. Each 30-minute session includes:

  • Tai chi warmu
  • Balance drills
  • Strength and/or power training
  • Yoga warm-down

A progressive, customized approach to balance for older adults

Blended Balance sessions progress from using support and eyesight as needed to using little to no support or eyesight to achieve and maintain balance. Balance assessments are performed at week 1 to establish a baseline and week 12 to evaluate progress.

Depending on need, Blended Balance may be repeated. Ageility may also integrate fall prevention rehab services through our OTAGO Fall Risk Reduction Program. Ageility trainers can advise participants on best next steps given their unique situation.

The results: Fewer falls, greater confidence

Building better balance can greatly reduce fear of falling, leading not only to fewer accidents and hospitalizations but better quality of life. Blended Balance is part of Ageility’s comprehensive offering for fall prevention and balance enhancement.

Start building greater confidence today

Not sure if Blended Balance is the right choice? Contact us to learn more. Or find an Ageility Clinic near you. A better life balance is within reach.

What is the Activities Specific Balance Confidence Scale?

Balance: It’s Not 100% Anymore, But Is It a Problem?

What is balance confidence?

Balance is important, but how do you know if you have “good” balance? At Ageility, we define good balance as the ability to easily maintain your body’s position without tripping or stumbling. But many adults lack good balance; 25% of older adults say they have difficulty with balance or need special equipment (or another person) to assist them when walking. After age 75, nearly 40% struggle with balance.

So why is balance so important? Balance problems increase the risk of falls, which increase risk of injury. One in four seniors report falling each year, and over 20% of those falls required medical attention due to injury.

That’s why Ageility therapists don’t just help older adults recover AFTER a fall. We also use various assessments to discover risk BEFORE falls and injury ever occur. One of our go-to tools, which you can use at home, is the Activities-Specific Balance Confidence Scale.

How is ABC scale score calculated?

The ABC Scale is a simple tool to measure your balance confidence. It asks you to rate your confidence in completing everyday activities while remaining steady on your feet. For each activity on the list, you write your confidence from 0% to 100%. 0% means you’re not confident at all, and you’re worried about falling, and 100% means you’re completely confident and trust your balance.

Take the ABC Scale for Balance!

As you rate your confidence for each item below, go with your first instinct because it’s usually the most accurate. If you don’t do one or more of the activities, imagine yourself in that situation and make your best guess. If you use a walker or cane or lean on someone when you walk, rate your confidence when using that support. For items that include the phrases up or down, into or out of, or onto or off, think about whether your confidence level varies based on which direction you go in. For example, you may be more confident in your ability to walk up the stairs than down them. In that case, you would list the lower confidence level of the two (walking down the stairs).

How confident are you that you will NOT lose your balance or become unsteady when you…

…walk around the house? ____%

…walk up or down stairs? ____%

…bend over and pick up a slipper from the front of a closet floor ____%

…reach for a small can off a shelf at eye level? ____%

…stand on your tiptoes and reach for something above your head? ____% …stand on a chair and reach for something? ____%

…sweep the floor? ____%

…walk outside the house to a car parked in the driveway? ____%

…get into or out of a car? ____%

…walk across a parking lot to the mall? ____%

…walk up or down a ramp? ____%

…walk in a crowded mall where people rapidly walk past you? ____%

…are bumped into by people as you walk through the mall?____%

… step onto or off an escalator while you are holding onto a railing? ____%

… step onto or off an escalator while holding onto parcels such that you cannot hold onto the railing? ____%

…walk outside on icy sidewalks? ____%

How do you score activity specific balance confidence scale results?

Now it’s time to determine your results! Add up your score from each line, and then divide by 16 to determine your percentage. If you scored:

  • 80% or higher, you’re in good shape, have a “high level of physical functioning” and are at low risk for falls. Continue to move and do strength exercises to maintain your balance.
  • 50-80%, you’re considered to have a moderate level of physical functioning. However, studies have shown that any score below 67% is predictive of a future fall – meaning you’re very likely to have a fall soon that could lead to problems. At this stage, we encourage you to stay in regular contact with your physical therapist or doctor and to exercise often to improve your strength, stamina and balance.
  • Below 50%, you’re considered to have a low level of physical functioning, and are at the highest risk of a fall. But there’s no need to panic. Now that you know there’s a problem, you can make a plan to address it. You should call your doctor or physical therapist to express your concerns and seek advice. With a strategy, an exercise routine and possibly an assistive device or two in place, you can stay active – safely.

Ageility can help you improve balance and reduce falls

Whether you scored high or low on the Activities-Specific Balance Confidence Scale, Ageility can help. Our specialists can explain what your score means and make recommendations for you to improve your balance. Then, through our fitness and rehab programs – along with our state-of-the-art balance tools and technologies – we can develop a customized plan to help you maintain or gain strength and balance, according to your specific needs.

Contact Ageility at [email protected] or find an Ageility location near you to learn how we can assist you!

Stay on Your Feet: 12 Tips for How to Prevent Falls in Seniors

Your body is an amazing machine that’s helped you to physically experience and enjoy your life. Thanks to it, you’ve traveled, danced and maybe even run a marathon. You’ve also worked hard, perhaps raised a family and achieved your dreams. But as you age, your body naturally gets tired and loses some of its strength.

Unfortunately, loss of strength can result in reduced coordination, balance and physical stamina and can lead to falls as you get older. A fall could result in serious injury – or to an earlier death. Plus, older adults who have fallen once are more likely to do so again. The risk is understandably concerning. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to significantly reduce your chance of falling – allowing you to maintain your independence, mobility and good health.

Without further ado, here are tips to keep you steady on your feet and active, courtesy of Ageility’s Fall Prevention Program specialists. For best results, partner with your family and friends to implement these strategies.

12 Tips to Help Seniors Avoid Falling

  1. Clear the path.
    Many falls occur due to tripping over something. So, pick up clutter, tuck cords out of the way and get rid of throw rugs. Then you can be confident that your path is free of tripping hazards.
  2. Light the way.
    It’s easy to stumble in the dark. To avoid falling at night (and stubbing your toe!), plug in night lights to illuminate your path. Make sure you have a well-lit route to the bathroom – and exits in case of emergency.
  3. Check your seats.
    Believe it or not, you can fall while trying to sit down. To prevent that from happening, make sure your toilet and chairs are high enough where you can slide onto them – not drop onto them. Plus, avoid chairs with wheels as they can roll out from underneath you.
  4. Shower safely.
    The bathtub can get very slippery. To stay steady on your feet, securely install easy-to-reach grab bars and use them when you’re climbing in and out of the shower. Then, place a non-slip bathmath just outside of the tub.
  5. Climb stairs confidently.
    If you’re a little unsteady, stairs can be a major fall hazard. But, if you install – and grab onto – secure railings, you can climb that flight confidently. Don’t forget to take your time – there’s no need to rush!
  6. Ditch that dizziness.
    Feeling dizzy throws off your balance and could lead to a fall. If you feel dizzy when standing, wait a moment for it to pass before moving. Be sure to talk to your doctor as some of your medication may cause dizziness. Plus, try to stay well-hydrated – especially if you’re outside in the heat.
  7. Get moving.
    Your chances of falling decrease if you maintain your physical strength. That means you need to get – and stay – moving. Gentle exercise, such as walking or lifting light weights regularly, should do the trick. If exercise isn’t something you normally enjoy, put on your favorite music or ask a friend to join you.
  8. Traverse the terrain.
    Soft or uneven terrain may cause you to be unsteady on your feet. To navigate it safely, take your time and walk carefully. If you need assistance, don’t feel embarrassed to ask for someone’s arm for extra support.
  9. Keep essential things handy.
    If you rush across the room to answer a ringing phone or answer a knock at the door, you could trip and fall. To stop this from happening, keep the phone on you or near you at all times. Also, if you use a walker or cane, make sure it’s always within reach. That way, you never have to take a step without it.
  10. Track your habits.
    Getting up quickly to use the bathroom could cause you to get dizzy or fall. To avoid the potentially dangerous scramble, track your habits. If you always go to the bathroom at the same times every day, you can plan ahead – and get moving before the need becomes urgent.
  11. Keep those ankles limber.
    Ankle flexibility and strength are key to preventing falls. When you’re sitting in your chair, move your ankles in circles. Then, pump your feet up and down. The best part? You can do these basic exercises while watching your favorite television programs.
  12. Beef up those leg muscles.
    Strong legs mean better balance which means fewer falls. To beef up those leg muscles, sit on a comfortable chair, scoot up to the edge, and slowly stand up. Hold the position for a moment, and then slowly ease back onto the chair. Repeat the process five times. Try to avoid using your hands unless you need to use them for support.

Another concern: If your knees buckle, you could fall. To lessen your chance of that happening, incorporate standing knee bends into your exercise routine. Start by standing in front of a table, with both hands placed on the edge. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart. Then, squat halfway, bending your knees. Your knees should go directly over your toes. When your heel starts to lift, straighten your legs. Repeat the exercise five times.

Bonus tip: Enlist family support.

Your family and friends can be a great support system. They want you to avoid falls just as much as you do. To make sure they’re on the same page as you, be sure to communicate your needs. Ask them to give you more time to answer the door when they visit. Tell them not to rush when you’re out together. They’ll understand and be grateful for the reminders.

Are you worried about you or a loved one falling? Contact Ageility at [email protected] to see how we can help!