“When was the last time you fell?” It’s not just a question I’ve asked clinically. It’s also one that I’ve posed when teaching, speaking, and in one-on-one conversations with adult children who are wondering how to keep their mom or dad (or both!) safe at home. 

At first glance, it might seem confusing to ask healthy adults about the last time they fell, but when people really think about it, the answer reveals a sneaky truth. A HUGE number of falls are caused, not simply by weakness or impaired balance (although to be sure these things play a role), but by hazards in the environment. When people realize that the last time they themselves fell was down a step they didn’t see, something they tripped over or slipped on, or because they stumbled in the dark, it also becomes clear that the loved one they are trying to protect may be facing significant risk due to common hazards in the environment. 

When we combine environmental fall hazards with physical, cognitive, and sensory issues that many people face as they age, the power of environmental safety becomes even more important. In fact, in a study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, environmental modifications led by occupational therapists were predicted to stop the largest number of falls amongst all intervention types1

Yet many are reluctant to make changes to the environment. While there are multiple reasons for such reluctance, one that I frequently hear is that many people fear making environmental changes will be too costly, disruptive, or difficult. With those concerns in mind, here are 3 environmental fall hazards that are both easy and cheap to fix!

Slippery tubs and showers

Slips and falls can occur easily on wet, soapy surfaces. Luckily, this is a problem that generally only costs a few dollars and a little elbow grease to fix. Although many people use rubber or plastic mats to prevent slips and falls when bathing, mats can become a slip or trip hazard themselves. Instead, I often recommend clients use non-skid stickers or strips as an alternative. These can be purchased very cheaply and create a reliable non-skid surface. Hint: the trick is to clean and dry bottom of the shower/tub very well before application!

Remove/replace chairs with wheels

You’ve probably heard that you should remove rugs to prevent falls (it’s true, rugs are often fall hazards. They are also totally FREE to remove!). But, how often have you thought about the chairs your loved one is sitting in? Most folks recognize that the height of a chair influences how easy or hard the chair is to stand from. Less often mentioned is that the stability of the chair also plays an important role. 

Many people have office chairs with wheels in their homes. Similarly, I’ve seen dining chairs with wheels, barstools on wheels… you get the idea. When a chair is on wheels, fall risk increases during both sitting and standing motions. Why? First, it takes a lot more strength and balance to stabilize a chair that might move during the sitting or standing process. Second, and most obviously, the chair can roll away! The unexpected movement can throw someone off balance, or it could move away from the place where the person is expecting the chair to be. Either way, the unfortunate outcome is an unwelcome meeting with the floor. 

Removing rolling chairs or replacing them with those that offer more stability increases the safety of the person using it – every time they stand up or sit down.

Make sure night-time lighting is good 

Night-time lighting is especially important for fall prevention because it intersects with 3 other fall risk factors: disorientation, toileting urgency, and hypotension2. When we add on the inability to see one’s surroundings, night-time trips to the restroom can get more than a little dicey! 

One of the easiest things to do is to have a light within reach of the person getting up. The light should be turned on before ever taking a step out of bed. Turning on the light can also work to slow the process of going from lying to standing, which can help to decrease swings in blood pressure. Another easy, cheap tip for lighting is to install automatic light sensors, or automatic night lights. Just make sure that the light is adequate to illuminate the way. 

So there you have it! 3 easy, cheap, and effective methods of reducing fall risks in the home. Before we wrap up, I want to leave you with what is arguably the MOST important thing to remember about fall prevention. The word: PREVENT. It’s never the wrong time to make a home safer, but the most effective time to prevent the harm that falls cause is before they begin. And although it is impossible to prevent every fall from happening, taking action to reduce fall risk before someone is in obvious danger of falling is vital. Early action in fall prevention not only saves lives, it can also help maintain independence and reduce debility, fear of falling, and the long term financial and quality of life costs associated with a fall. If you are concerned about your loved one suffering a fall when you cannot be physically with them, Connected Caregiver Safety+ might be a solution to provide you with greater peace of mind.

Disclaimer: Consuming this content is not a substitute for health or medical advice, and does not constitute a therapeutic relationship. People should seek medical advice from a licensed health care provider if they feel they have a medical condition, impairment, disability, safety risk, or other needs related to health, wellness, and prevention. Neither the Author, nor any connected company or affiliation is providing medical advice or treatment of any kind in this document. No guarantees of specific results are promised or implied. Author/connected companies/affiliates are not liable for any injury or harm resulting from persons implementing tips, strategies, or information shared here. 


1Am J Prev Med 2018;55(3):290–297. Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of American Journal of Preventive Medicine

2Hypotension is a medical term that means low blood pressure. People, even healthy people, frequently experience temporary low blood pressure when transitioning from lying to sitting, or sitting to standing. This is because it can take the heart a moment to adjust pressure in order to get blood up to the brain against gravity. During the moment where the heart is still working to catch up, people may become dizzy. You’ve probably experienced this yourself on more than one occasion.