When going about daily life in our homes, falling down is not often top of mind. But in reality, a home can be a dangerous place for both young and old. Worldwide, 37.3 million falls that occur annually are severe enough to require medical attention. While younger, more agile people may bounce back from injuries in such falls, it is adults age 65 and older who also have to worry about morbidity due to falls.

The statistics can be alarming, but there are several ways to make a home safer, and, in turn, reduce the risk for falls. For more information about fall prevention in the San Diego area, visit sandiegofallprevention.org.

Facts and figures

  • 3.5 million: children who go to ER for injury in the home

  • 2.5 million: adults 65 and older treated in ER for falls each year

  • 734,000: admittance to hospital after fall

  • 12,000: ER visits due to falls in San Diego County

  • 250,000: hip fractures reported annually, 95 percent of which are from falls

  • $35,000: average hospital cost for fall injury

  • $34 billion: annual direct medical costs (adjusted for inflation) for fall injuries

  • 78%: approximate amount that Medicare pays for treatment due to falls

  • Injuries: Most common fall injuries are head, hip, broken bone

SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, San Diego Fall Prevention Task Force

Risk factors that contribute to falls

  • Lower body weakness
  •  Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Home interiors obstacles
  • Physical “barriers” to independence and safety in the home

Tips for preventing falls

  • Remove clutter and items you could trip on, such as throw-rugs, electrical cords and pet gear.
  • Add securely attached grab bars inside and outside tub or shower areas and next to the toilet.
  • Install “comfort-height” or “right-height” toilets.
  • Put securely attached railings on both sides of stairs.
  • Make sure your home has lots of good, glare-free lighting, plus nightlights in kitchens, baths and hallways.
  • Talk to your doctor and have them evaluate your risk for falling.

“Livable San Diego,” is a twice-monthly series that can be found inside the Home & Garden section of the Union-Tribune on the second and fourth Saturdays or online at livablesandiego.com.